RONNIE O’SULLIVAN – that great snooker colossus – bestrides the sport once again tonight after winning a thrilling Coral UK Championship final, one of the most dramatic big occasion matches of his glittering career.
Holding a 9-4 lead over Judd Trump, it looked as if a coronation was pending. Trump, unable to keep position when in the balls and becoming frustrated at cannons going wrong and general torpor in his game, was sat slumped in his chair, seemingly resigned to defeat.
But he scrambled the 14th and then, in a frenzied blur of frames, Trump reduced his arrears to 9-8, making breaks of 120, 127 and 86. He then put together one of the breaks of the tournament, a 67 pressure clearance, to force the decider.
This was an incredible turnaround, the last four frames being won in 42 minutes. It was classy, stylish, nerveless snooker. The problem ultimately for Trump is that no one excels better in these departments than O’Sullivan himself.
Clearly shaken, O’Sullivan was stirred into action. The 51 break he made to win it was, under the circumstances, one of his best.
He has now won five UK Championship titles, level with Stephen Hendry and one fewer than Steve Davis. O’Sullivan has won 15 ‘triple crown’ titles, the same as Davis with Hendry on 18.
To think that there was talk of a withdrawal due to his ankle injury after his first match. Whatever pain he was feeling was soon inflicted on his opponents. He wasn’t much challenged in the early rounds but Anthony McGill gave him a tough match in the quarter-finals and O’Sullivan was forced to recover from 4-1 down to beat Stuart Bingham in the semis.
Then, as at the end against Trump, it was obvious just how much he wanted to win. He may have enjoyed/endured (delete as appropriate) a love-hate relationship with snooker but right now he is enjoying playing and, more particularly, enjoying winning.
Trump spoke really well in the aftermath of what must have been a very disappointing defeat. To his great credit he continued to play with the same positive attitude right to the end. He has real belief in his game right now and, when the immediate disappointment recedes, has every reason to tackle the second half of the season with confidence.
But there’s only one Rocket and, with it all on the line, he did it again. It makes one wonder how much more he could have won had he not had his various issues.
But without his various issues, he wouldn’t be Ronnie O’Sullivan. This remarkable snooker player continues to enthral and, based on the way he has played during 2014, will carry on doing so well into his 40s.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.