Ronnie O’Sullivan conquered the Crucible for the first time in seven years by beating Kyren Wilson 18-8 in the final of the Betfred World Championship, landing the title for the sixth time.
O’Sullivan celebrates with partner Laila
In a one-sided conclusion to the final in Sheffield, O’Sullivan pulled away from 10-8 to take the last eight frames as Wilson ran out of steam. Having struggled to find consistency in his technique throughout the tournament, something clicked for O’Sullivan on the last day as he reeled off a series of frame-winning breaks. A crowd of 300 watched him lift the trophy at the end of a tournament played under unique circumstances,
Six Crucible triumphs brings Chigwell’s O’Sullivan within one of the record of seven held by Stephen Hendry. He also moves to a record 37 ranking titles, one ahead of the legendary Scot. Only the most loyal Hendry fan could now dispute the opinion that O’Sullivan is snooker’s greatest ever player.
At the age of 44 he becomes the oldest World Champion since Ray Reardon in 1978, while six titles draws him level with Reardon and Steve Davis. O’Sullivan has now won 20 Triple Crown events with an extraordinary 27 years between the first and last.
The £500,000 top prize doubles his previous biggest winner’s cheque and boosts him from sixth to second in the world rankings, behind only runaway leader Judd Trump.
O’Sullivan’s World Finals 2001 beat John Higgins 18-14 2004 beat Graeme Dott 18-8 2008 beat Ali Carter 18-8 2012 beat Ali Carter 18-11 2013 beat Barry Hawkins 18-12 2014 lost to Mark Selby 18-14 2020 beat Kyren Wilson 18-8
There were times during the event when O’Sullivan looked a frustrated, fading force, notably at 7-2 down against Mark Williams and 13-9 down against Mark Selby. He enjoyed slices of fortune, particularly in the deciding frame of a 17-16 win over Selby. Above all, this was a triumph for O’Sullivan’s fighting spirit over the temptation to throw in the towel which often bubbles below the surface. He has finally proved to himself that, well into his 40s, he can still complete this marathon of the mind.
O’Sullivan has now played 90 matches at the Crucible, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record
Wilson may reflect on a missed chance when he trailed 10-8, after which he never threatened. The 28-year-old from Kettering gave everything to beat Judd Trump in the quarter-finals and Anthony McGill 17-16 in an epic semi-final. He faltered on the home stretch and and he has now lost six of his nine ranking finals, though he can learn from the experience of his best Crucible run. The £200,000 pay-day is by far his biggest and he is up to a career-high of sixth in the world.
Leading 17-8 after the third session, O’Sullivan needed just ten minutes to wrap up the match in the concluding session with a rapid run of 96. Over the last eight frames he made seven breaks over 50.
“I was happy to get one world title at one stage,” said O’Sullivan. “Once I got to four I knew I could call myself one of the greats, because that’s how many times John Higgins had won it. Anything above that and you are in fantastic company.
“One thing I have got is longevity. I go in and out of form and my mind can wander sometimes. Then I get a bit of a taste for it again and want to see if I’ve still got it, so I try to have a go at it as I have done in this tournament. When you practise for five or six hours a day it’s because you want to know whether you are hitting it straight enough to stand up under pressure.
The tournament was selected be the UK Government as the first post-lockdown indoor sporting event to safely welcome a crowd
“Kyren is a top player and is improving all the time. He has got desire, the hunger and the belief in his ability. His fire is burning bright enough and he will get there in the end. He will win this tournament one day – not to put too much pressure on him. He is a country mile above everyone else his age and he always wants to raise his own bar.”
Wilson said: “I’m not going to beat myself up to much. It was a dream come true to play Ronnie in the final. I really struggled in the first session yesterday. We both had a bit of a hangover from the semi-finals. I’m a fighter. I tried to just relax, let the shackles off and go for it.
“The night belongs to Ronnie, he was amazing in the final. He has shown his class when he wasn’t quite at his best. He was awesome in the third session.
“I’m very lucky to have what I have, to be 28 and playing the sport that I love. It has given me an amazing life. To perform in an arena like this is an honour and I’m glad that a crowd was allowed in for the final.”