Ronnie O’Sullivan achieved another high in his extraordinary career by making his 1,000th century in the last frame of a 10-4 victory over Neil Robertson in the final of the Coral Players Championship in Preston.
Ever the showman, O’Sullivan made his milestone break at the perfect moment, to seal the title at the Guild Hall. A packed crowd cheered every shot as he became the first player to make 1,000 career tons (read more about that story here).
Victory gave O’Sullivan his 35th ranking title, bringing him within one of Stephen Hendry’s record. He dominated the final with a brilliant display, making three centuries and eight more breaks over 50 as he successfully completed the defence of his title and scooped the £125,000 top prize.
It has been a remarkable few months for O’Sullivan; in December he won his seventh UK Championship title and 19th Triple Crown event, beating records set by Steve Davis and Hendry. Now he has yet another piece of history and it surely won’t be long before he equals and then beats Hendry’s record of 36 ranking titles.
This was O’Sullivan’s 50th ranking final, the first coming 26 years ago at the same venue when he beat Hendry in the final of the UK Championship at the age of just 17.
The Chigwell cueman, now 43, has played in nine tournaments so far this season, reaching six finals and winning four. His earnings for the season now stand at £754,500, bringing him within striking distance of becoming the first player to top the £1 million mark in a single campaign. O’Sullivan moves one place up to second in the world rankings and could overtake Mark Selby at the top of the list if he wins the Coral Tour Championship later this month.
Australia’s Robertson had been aiming for his 16th ranking title and victory would have given him three in a season for the first time, having already won the Riga Masters and Welsh Open. But the 37-year-old could not live with his opponent today and had to accept the £50,000 runner-up prize after losing to O’Sullivan for the 15th time in 22 meetings.
Trailing 7-2 after the first session, Robertson needed a fast start tonight and got it with a 120 total clearance in the opening frame. O’Sullivan responded with a break of 90, missing out on a chance for the 1,000th century when the last red stayed above the jaws of a corner pocket.
Robertson took frame 12 with 35 and 36 to make it 8-4 and ensure that the session would go to an interval, then O’Sullivan compiled runs of 43 and 37 in the 13th to go five ahead with six to play.
And he sealed the match in sensational style with a break of 134, which in fact would have been a 141 total clearance had he not gone in-off after potting the final black. The two players laughed as Robertson informed his opponent that the in-off had cost him the tournament-high break prize of £5,000 as it would have beaten Robertson’s mark of 140. Still, nothing could spoil O’Sullivan’s moment.
“I knew I had to play well today,” said O’Sullivan. “I have played well all week and played brilliantly today. To cap it off with the 1,000th century was great. I was pleased to do it against Neil because he’s probably the nicest human being on the circuit. There’s no player I’d rather share that moment with other than Ding Junhui or Liang Wenbo.
“This is one of the best venues we get to play at, I love playing here. Since I was seven or eight I have just potted snooker balls, I love the game. To share this with the fans here and around the world – Preston is lucky that it was here tonight but it’s for the fans everywhere.
“It has been a history making year for me with 19 majors, 1,000 centuries and I’m within touching distance of Hendry’s record of 36 ranking titles. I’m not someone who looks at records, it’s nice when I reach them but it’s not my motivation.”
Robertson said: “I had high hopes going into the match but I couldn’t do much about the way Ronnie played. He probably plays a final like that once every two or three years. I kept trying all the way through and did well to stay in there. I only missed a few tough shots, he won at least five or six frames where I didn’t make a mistake.
“It was great to be in the arena when he made the 1,000th century. I’m delighted for him, he’s a wonderful champion and the game’s greatest ever player.”
Both players will be in action at the Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno (March 19-24), for ticket details click here.