Ronnie O’Sullivan made the 775th century of his career, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record, during a 6-4 win over Ricky Walden at the Dafabet Masters.
In an enthralling conclusion to the match, O’Sullivan fluked the final yellow in the tenth frame, and added the green, brown and blue to match Hendry’s long-standing record. The Rocket will now meet Marco Fu on Thursday afternoon (click here for ticket details) with the chance to set a new record.
Over a 23-year career, O’Sullivan has established himself as the most gifted player ever to hold a cue and the greatest ever break-builder. He is now setting his sites on another Hendry record: six Masters titles. He’ll equal that if he triumphs at Alexandra Palace on Sunday night.
Chigwell’s 39-year-old O’Sullivan enjoyed one of the best years of his career in 2014, winning the Masters, Welsh Open, Champion of Champions and UK Championship, and looks determined to continue in the same vein in 2015.
The early stages today were scrappy and O’Sullivan led 2-1 after an hour’s play. He then stepped up a gear with breaks of 77, 91 and 100 to lead 5-1.
Walden, who lost 6-0 to O’Sullivan here last year, rallied with a run of 100 to win frame seven. O’Sullivan looked set for victory when he made a 66 in the next, but Walden got a snooker and free ball on the last red and cleared up to close to 5-3. And when the Chester cueman cleared with 73 in the next, an unlikely fight-back was in full flow.
But O’Sullivan responded by getting the frame – and century – he needed. In potting the black off the last red he failed to dislodge the yellow and brown from the baulk cushion, but a hit-and-hope yellow came off three cushions and dropped into a centre pocket, leaving him perfect position on the green. O’Sullivan went on to make 116 as a packed house of nearly 1,700 joined him in celebration.
“I’ve been thinking about the (centuries) record since I got within striking distance and I’m glad I’ve equalled it now,” said O’Sullivan. “I doubt Stephen Hendry is that bothered, he’s still got the seven world titles record which means more to him than anything. For me it’s more about winning this tournament now.
“There’s a lot of expectation because I’ve won back-to-back tournaments and I’m going for a third. There’s a lot of pressure because the crowd in London want to see me do well. It’s great to have that support but it comes with that pressure because I want to keep them happy and keep winning.
“I had spells in the match where I was strong, but I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I’m not as sharp as I was 18 months ago, I was quicker out of the blocks then. At the moment I’m drifting in and out, sometimes losing two or three frames in a row which is not ideal at this level. Hopefully I can raise my game and get stronger with each match.”