Et was shortly before nine o’clock at night in Sheffield when Ronald Antonio O’Sullivan lost control of the action. The 200th century break (record with 100+ points) from his long career at world championship snooker tournaments was already within reach when he suddenly lost the last concentration on the next stroke.
How it happens sometimes when someone already has victory in their pocket. Seconds later, he couldn’t or wouldn’t hold back the tears that had overwhelmed him at the moment of his final triumph. The only way he could half-hide that was on the shoulder of his staunch rival Judd Trump, who had been pressuring him as best he could over the past two days. And there, the head of the new world champion rested, hand stopped for more than a minute.
A little later, O’Sullivan told British television pundits that his opponent, 14 years his junior, had immediately moved him to tears during the exchange of words between the two most charismatic sports figures in billiards. However, O’Sullivan kept the exact nature of the compliment to himself. On the other hand, the rest of the world knows at least since this memorable victory (6:13 p.m.) how to classify the now 46-year-old magician from north Greater London in recent history.
O’Sullivan, aka ‘The Rocket’, was able to equal the record set by Scotsman Stephen Hendry on Monday, a ‘holiday’, who won the nearly century-old silver trophy with the figure of a shepherdess in the lead . seven times through 1999. Most of the other records from the Crucible era that began 45 years ago belong to O’Sullivan anyway – from the number of victories in prestigious Triple Crown tournaments (now 21) to the record of most career centuries (1169).
Breaking that last relevant record was not as easy for O’Sullivan as his game suggested in the best, sometimes brilliant moments. 21 years after his maiden World Cup victory, the number two seed on the list has consistently prevailed by a clear margin against four top opponents in the semi-finals over the two weeks of the tournament.
The unparalleled control at the game table that was required for this was again admired by all pundits. The punching of object balls and the simultaneous positioning of the cue ball for the next shot was sometimes so great that former Scottish professional Alan McManus once spontaneously exclaimed, “It’s art!” But on the second and final day of the final, the ever-popular favorite had to work hard to concentrate, who is behind so much class, seems hard to pay tribute.
More stunning than electrified
On Sunday, meanwhile, with a 10:4 frame lead, O’Sullivan appeared to run out of fuel on Monday afternoon. He couldn’t stop 2019 world champion Trump from fighting bravely to close the gap to three frames. But in the evening session of the explosive duel of generations, the old master was able to secure four of the last six races with an inimitable feeling for the decisive moments to cross the finish line.
Apparently not a drop remained in the tank. More stunning than electrified, O’Sullivan, according to Trump, “by far the best player of the tournament” accepted applause, a trophy and a check for half a million pounds (about 595,000 euros). He then stuck his head in each shoulder that one of the family members running to congratulate him could only offer him in the shower of confetti above the green table. “I was so tired,” O’Sullivan admitted moments later. And: “It was like torture. But I said to myself: pull yourself together. However, I never really believed that it would happen… This is my best result!
The final tournament of the World Main Tour was already full of nostalgia in recent days. For example, co-favorite Trump found himself surrounded by three older men over 40 in the semifinals. Together, O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams form the famous “Class of 92”, which, even after thirty years as a professional, absolutely refuses to relax its performances. The succession attack, the often predicted triumph of the ambitious Chinese competitors: it all bounces off the stoic trio as if someone had just thrown paper.
Clashes with the referee
There were also irritating moments in Sheffield. Just as shortly after the start of the final, when Belgian referee Olivier Marteel interrupted play, which had been so smooth until then, in the fourth period for a long argument with O’Sullivan and a subsequent warning. The “inappropriate gesture” that the eminently important man punished had seen only him.
A few days earlier, Jack Lisowski was thwarted from above in an equally questionable way. The 30-year-old quarter-finalist from South West England wanted to make a statement about the devastating war in Ukraine with a blue and yellow flag at his seat. This is the country where his grandfather comes from. This was classified as a political demonstration by the organizer of the World Snooker Tour (WST) and was therefore banned. Here, an open debate involving activists would have made sense. After all, it is grown men who are allowed to stay up late at night.