Ronnie O’Sullivan won his third ranking title in China, and 22nd overall, with a 10-5 victory over Liang Wenbo in the final of the Roewe Shanghai Masters.
The Rocket was only able to find a few spells of his renowned fluency during the final at the Grand Stage, but his experience and tactical ability saw him through to the £55,000 first prize.
Many fans in the arena and millions of TV viewers across China may have hoped for a home winner in Liang, and the flamboyant 22-year-old left-hander looked in with a chance at 7-5, only for O’Sullivan to reel off the last three frames.
Chigwell’s 33-year-old O’Sullivan put behind him the disappointment of losing to Ricky Walden in the final here last year, and broke a spell of 13 months without a ranking title as he moved a step close to Steve Davis’ total of 28, though he still has a long way to go to match Stephen Hendry’s record haul of 36 ranking crowns.
The second half of last season, since he won January’s invitational Masters title, produced a poor sequence of results by O’Sullivan’s standards, culminating in a second round defeat to Mark Allen at the Betfred.com World Championship. He subsequently made a concious decision to play more shots left handed in order to keep his mind focussed on his game, and also changed his cue to a version closer to the model which won him the World and UK titles in 2007/08.
The first tournament of the season usually sees most players rusty from the summer break, and in such circumstances O’Sullivan’s vast natural ability is a huge advantage. He has now won the opening ranking event of the campaign in the last two seasons.
No doubt Liang will appear in many more major finals, as he has shown this week the capacity to hold his nerve on the big stage. His only previous appearance in a ranking quarter-final was against O’Sullivan at the Crucible last year, but this week he has knocked out four ranking event winners on his way to the final. After yesterday’s 6-5 semi-final defeat, Shaun Murphy advised Liang not to go for “so many silly shots”, but Liang may feel that worrying his opponents through his attacking strategy is a weapon in itself.
Starting the concluding session 6-3 down, Liang won the first frame tonight with breaks of 28 and 35, then saw O’Sullivan restore his three frame cushion with a superb 109. Frame 12 saw both players miss chances, O’Sullivan failing on the last red to a middle pocket, then jawing the final pink to the opposite centre, and Liang slotted in pink and black for 7-5.
O’Sullivan hit back with a 56 in the next, and won the frame by potting the penultimate red with a black after Liang had miscued attempting a safety shot. In the 14th, Liang was in first but could only make 14 before over-cutting a red and spreading the pack to leave an inviting table. O’Sullivan capitalised with 69, and though Liang got the snooker he needed, he missed an ambitious long yellow to allow his opponent to go 9-5 ahead.
Little over five minutes later, the contest was over as O’Sullivan made a cool 71 to secure the trophy.