Ronnie O’Sullivan won his first full ranking title in 29 months by beating Stephen Maguire 9-7 at the PartyPoker.net German Masters.
A fantastic final at the Tempodrom in Berlin saw O’Sullivan come from 6-3 down to win six of the last seven frames and take the trophy and 50,000 Euro top prize.
The match started with four consecutive centuries, and finished with nail-biting drama as O’Sullivan won the last frame on the colours to capture his first full ranking title since the Shanghai Masters in September 2009.
It was a fitting conclusion to the tournament and a tremendous spectacle for the 2,500 fans who packed the arena, a clear indication of the strength of support for snooker in Germany. O’Sullivan described the venue as “the best we play in” at the end of a final which produced a wonderful atmosphere.
Coming into this tournament, O’Sullivan was in serious danger of dropping out of the world’s top 16, with the next seeding cut-off point coming after the Welsh Open later this month. Elimination from the elite bracket of the rankings would see him having to qualify for the World Championship, raising the unthinkable prospect of snooker’s most gifted player not being at the Crucible.
Remarkably, he was 4-0 down to Andrew Higginson in his first match this week and within a few balls of crashing out. But in coming back to win that match 5-4, the Rocket flicked the ignition switch.
Just as he has done several times over his 20-year-career, he raised his game when his back was against wall. He is still not certain of his top 16 place, but will go to Newport in a much safer position – and with renwed faith in his capacity to thrive under tough conditions.
Maguire was also seeking to end a long drought without a full ranking title, stretching back to the 2008 China Open. He looked in control at 6-3 but failed to take chances at the crucial moments. For the Glaswegian, it was a painful reminder of last year’s Welsh Open final when he lost 9-6 to John Higgins after leading 5-2.
Maguire led 5-3 after a blistering first session and extended his lead in the first frame tonight thanks to breaks of 46 and 69. He was first among the balls in the next frame and made 40 before running out of position and playing safe. He later attempted a difficult red to a centre pocket but missed it to hand his opponent a lifeline. O’Sullivan cleared with 89 then won the next frame as well with 54 to close to 6-5.
In frame 12, Maguire made 52 before losing position, then O’Sullivan had a chance to clear up but missed the pink with one red left. Maguire potted the red and pink only to fail on a mid-range yellow. O’Sullivan snookered his opponent then made an excellent clearance which included brave pots on green and pink. He punched the air before walking off for the mid-session interval at 6-6.
A break of 67 gave O’Sullivan control of frame 13, and he won it after Maguire failed to gain a snooker on the yellow, to lead for the first time since 1-0.
In the 14th, O’Sullivan missed a red on 43, and Maguire looked to have the frame at his mercy until he failed to split a cluster of three reds then missed one of them with the rest. O’Sullivan cleared to move within one of victory at 8-6.
The Chigwell cueman seemed to be cruising to the title in the next frame but, with the reds wide open, missed a cut-back black on 43. Maguire had plenty of work to do with two reds on cushions, but cleared superbly with 82 to keep his hopes alive.
A break of 46 put O’Sullivan ahead in frame 16, then Maguire gradually clawed his way back to within 17 points. O’Sullivan fluked a snooker on the last red and from the chance that followed went 26 points ahead with just 25 left. Still there was more drama as he went in-off when escaping a snooker on the blue. Maguire attempted a difficult long blue and missed, leaving the Englishman to finally pot the winning balls.
“It was a fantastic match and a brilliant atmosphere – all credit to Stephen because he’s a top player,” said 36-year-old O’Sullivan, whose celebration at the end of the match showed just how much it meant to him. “I had been thinking about whether I would ever win another ranking title.
“I was 4-0 down in the first round but won that and ended up getting a victory. I’m still not sure of my top 16 place but for now I can enjoy this one. I’m pleased to be competing again, giving it my best and able to have moments like this. It’s a great moment, regardless of whether I will be in Sheffield.
“If I decide not to play as much next season, at least I have shown that I can go out at the top, no one will be able to say that I gave up because I wasn’t good enough.
“Stephen outplayed me but I stuck in there and nicked frames, then managed to stay with him. To be only 5-3 down after the first session was massive, then to win three frames to get back to 6-6 felt like a miracle.”
A dejected Maguire agreed: “Losing the three frames to go from 6-3 to 6-6, I felt like I threw it away. He shouldn’t have been involved in the match, I should have finished it. When I was 6-5 up he missed the pink, and I should have cleared up, but missed the yellow. That’s when I started to think that this game will bite you if you don’t punish your opponent. It was exactly the same as the Welsh final last year and I was thinking about that. I let Ronnie off the hook.
“I played well all week, which was unexpected, and it’s nice to be competing again. I feel as if someone will have to play well to beat me, or I will have to throw it away. I’ve beaten John Higgins 5-0 and Shaun Murphy 6-0 so I must be doing something right. But I’m still not happy just getting to the final.”
Mark Williams 5-0 Ken Dohert
Stuart Bingham 5-3 Peter Ebdon
Stephen Lee 5-2 Adrian Gunnell
Ding Junhui 3-5 Yu Delu
Ali Carter 4-5 Joe Perry
Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-4 Andrew Higginson
Matthew Stevens 5-1 Craig Steadman
Neil Robertson 5-2 Marcus Campbell
Mark Selby 5-0 Liu Song
Graeme Dott 5-0 James Wattana
Martin Gould 1-5 Ricky Walden
Shaun Murphy 5-4 Barry Hawkins
Judd Trump 5-1 Paul Davison
Mark Allen 5-4 Tom Ford
Stephen Maguire 5-1 Ryan Day
John Higgins 5-1 Mark Davis
Mark Williams 5-2 Stuart Bingham
Stephen Lee 5-2 Yu Delu
Joe Perry 1-5 Ronnie O’Sullivan
Matthew Stevens 5-1 Neil Robertson
Mark Selby 5-3 Graeme Dott
Shaun Murphy 5-2 Ricky Walden
Judd Trump 5-2 Mark Allen
Stephen Maguire 5-0 John Higgins
Mark Williams 3-5 Stephen Lee
Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 Matthew Stevens
Mark Selby 3-5 Shaun Murphy
Judd Trump 4-5 Stephen Maguire
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-4 Stephen Lee
Stephen Maguire 6-0 Shaun Murphy
Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 Stephen Maguire