A friend of mine brought his eight-year-old son to the Masters on Saturday afternoon for the first time – and I’ll probably have to tell him on the school run next week it isn’t always that good.
Managing expectations is something Ronnie O’Sullivan has had to do all his life as an adoring public, especially at the Masters on his home patch, turn up expecting miracles.
But against Marco Fu they got one, or at least a near-one, as the Rocket was forced to abandon a damaged tip trailing 2-1 but after having a new one fixed by off-duty referee Paul Collier shrugged off the significant setback with outrageous ease.
Fu was tipped by many to claim a first win over O’Sullivan for eight years, having shown excellent form both in winning the Scottish Open and beating Judd Trump and Mark Allen at Alexandra Palace.
But the 39-year-old from Hong Kong, despite topping his own tournament-high break with a run of 141 that could yet be worth another £10,000 consolation, was blown away.
The new tip on O’Sullivan’s cue did not stop him rattling in long reds for fun, or making breaks of 95, 122, 55, 63, 82 and a closing 69 in a 6-4 victory to reach a 12th Masters final.
And that keeps him on track for a record seventh title to ease him clear of Stephen Hendry, who shares his mark of six.
You knew from early on there would be a nice story angle in this match, with the tip crisis and also Fu’s face lighting up as his four-year-old daughter Alicia Belle was carried to his chair with the score at 1-1 and O’Sullivan taking a toilet break. He was inspired to make a 110 break in the next frame.
But as well as the O’Sullivan brilliance he unloaded on a couple of the support cast on Saturday. Referee Terry Camilleri and O’Sullivan do not enjoy the easiest of relationships, with the Rocket having criticised the Maltese official in the past for getting in his way and replacing balls too slowly.
On Saturday he cranked that criticism up a notch, offering the opinion that Camilleri was not up to taking charge of major matches in the latter stages of the biggest tournaments.
World Snooker strongly backed their man, but Camilleri wasn’t the only one in O’Sullivan’s sights as afterwards he also launched verbal volley at a photographer who he claimed was not observing arena etiquette and putting him off.
But he should have been grateful to another of the photographers’ posse, who lent him a lighter that was on his table from 2-2 to burn away loose strands on the new tip.
Most top players would want a good few days, even a week to bed in a new tip. But O’Sullivan is the man that once won the Masters having picked a new cue the Saturday before, and he made it look ridiculously easy.
Experienced O’Sullivan watchers can easily tell when the player himself thinks he has played well, and he showed real emotion in punching the air at the end, and was buzzing in TV studio interviews with the BBC and Eurosport.
nd this was an answer to the prayers he said he would offer up to every God out there after a below-par showing against Neil Robertson.
He said: “That has to be the greatest match I have won in the circumstances, against a great player in superb form and with the new tip. Really, one of my greatest wins.
“I had been trying to steam the tip with a kettle beforehand, it had gone. And I was mis-cueing out there, it sounded all wrong chalking it.
“There was no risk changing it, I couldn’t have won that match against Marco with the damaged one. He was playing too well and scoring too heavily.
“And I was lucky the new one was decent. Those around me were saying ‘What are you doing’ but you have to make instinctive decisions. Maybe I’m not a bad player!”
Fu was left to say: “Every credit to the greatest player in the game today, playing with a new tip can be difficult.”