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O’Sullivan Wins Masters Classic

Ronnie O’Sullivan won the Masters title for the fourth time with a 10-8 victory in an absorbing final against Mark Selby at Wembley.

This tournament has a habit of producing great finals and this was certainly one to add to the list. Selby looked favourite when he led 7-5, but O’Sullivan proved stronger in the closing stretch as he won five of the last six frames.

The Rocket became the only player other than Stephen Hendry to win snooker’s most coverted invitation title more than three times, and lifted the trophy for the third time since 2005.

Rarely has he celebrated more vociferously at the end of a match, so relieved and elated was he to secure the title and £150,000 top prize. A crowd which included two members of the band Kasabian, James Caan of Dragon’s Den and former boxer Naseem Hamed gave Chigwell’s O’Sullivan a rousing reception as he celebrated on set with mum Maria.

Remarkably, O’Sullivan won the tournament with a cue he picked up for the first time just eight days ago; there is surely no other player in the history of the sport who could achieve such a feat.

O’Sullivan has now won each of snooker’s three biggest titles – the UK Championship, World Championship and Masters – within the last 13 months. His aggregate tally for those three events is up to 11, and it is not inconceivable that the 33-year-old could surpass Hendry’s mark of 18.

The World No 1 reaffirmed his status as snooker’s most potent force as he won his third title of the season – adding to the Northern Ireland Trophy and Premier League.

Defending champion Selby, the world No 4 from Leicester, suffered his first defeat in eight matches at the venue and missed the chance to become the only player other than Hendry, Cliff Thorburn and Paul Hunter to win the Masters in consecutive years.

Surprisingly, O’Sullivan made just five breaks over 50 during the six-hour match. His greatest assets were his tactical nous and patience; not once did he become frustrated when things went against him. He won four frames on the black – vitally the 14th and 17th.

There was drama in the first frame tonight as Selby, leading by 39 points, went in-off attempting the last red. O’Sullivan gained another snooker then missed the red from distance, but it rolled the length of the side cushion and dropped into a baulk corner. He cleared the table to go 5-4 up.

Unfazed by this stroke of misfortune, Selby stormed back to reel off the next three frames, compiling breaks of 101, 89 and 114.

O’Sullivan may not have enjoyed his mid-session cup of tea, but reduced his deficit after the break courtesy of a 53.

In the crucial 14th frame, Selby made 55 and led by 42 points with two reds left. But he gave his opponent four-points when he came up short rolling up, then played a poor safety to let O’Sullivan in. The Rocket took advantage in clinical style, executing superb pots on the last red and the pink in a 43 clearance to make it 7-7.

O’Sullivan carried his momentum into the next with a 110, the 31st century of the tournament, smashing the old record of 26. Back came Selby to 8-8 with a run of 69.

Selby looked in control of frame 17 until he missed a blue to the middle on 49. O’Sullivan failed to capitalise on two scoring chances, but got a reprieve when Selby missed the brown with one red left at 50-16. O’Sullivan cleared to the brown but then missed a tough blue. Selby, 17 points ahead, failed to convert a long pot, allowing O’Sullivan to roll in excellent pots to the centre on the blue and pink then add the black to go one ahead with two to play.

The next frame saw them tied at 16-16 when Selby missed a long red. O’Sullivan calmly compiled a break of 55 which brought him past the winning post.