The Masters is a tournament that was always going to appeal to Ronnie O’Sullivan, a player who doesn’t always find motivation easy to come by.

It’s the sort of big occasion event that a player of his class relishes: huge crowds, great atmosphere and top quality opposition.

O’Sullivan remains the youngest ever Masters champion, winning the 1995 title at the age of 19.

He lost in the final a year later, then 10-8 from 8-4 up to Steve Davis in the 1997 final, 10-9 to Paul Hunter in 2004, won the 2005 title and then lost 10-9 on the black to John Higgns in 2006.

In 2007, he would deliver a performance that stands as one of the best ever seen in a major final. Davis, who has seen more snooker than most, described him as ‘unplayable.’

His opponent was Ding Junhui, China’s great star who had opened the tournament with a 147 on the first day.

A close match was predicted: Ding had beaten O’Sullivan in the Northern Ireland Trophy final earlier that season.

But Ding was not used to the unique, often oppressive, atmosphere of Wembley and as O’Sullivan made hay, the Chinese struggled.

The final actually began well for Ding. He went 2-0 up with two big breaks, including a century, but O’Sullivan then hit him hard with back-to-back centuries as he moved 4-2 ahead.

A third ton made it 5-3 at halfway and the evening session turned into a procession: breaks of 96, a 66 clearance and a fourth century, a 143 total clearance, made it 9-3.

At that point, a shell-shocked Ding offered his hand in concession. Later, a ridiculous story went round that he had believed the final was best of 17, not 19.

What actually happened was that Ding had simply had enough. And, frankly, who could blame him?

He was persuaded to continue but O’Sullivan swiftly wrapped up a 10-3 victory. Ding was in tears but O’Sullivan put his arms around him in consolation.

This was Ronnie at his best: he had genuine concern for his opponent. He took pleasure in winning the title but not in humiliating Ding, a player he respected.

His own career had been full of downs as well as ups and he knew such a high profile reverse could set Ding back, which indeed it did for a couple of years.

O’Sullivan smashed his cue days before the 2009 Masters but still won the title. At that tournament he also made an impassioned plea for snooker to embrace change, which set the ball rolling for what would eventually become the Barry Hearn takeover.

Last year he cracked a little under pressure as Mark Selby came from 9-6 down to beat him 10-9 in the final but while I wouldn't back him in the World or UK Championships which require great patience and application, I reckon Ronnie is still a fair bet for the Masters.

He has appeared in nine Masters finals, the same number as Stephen Hendry.

A record tenth for O'Sullivan would underscore his enduring relationship with snooker's leading invitation event.


Anonymous said...

yet hes won more world and UKs than anyone bar Davis and Hendry.
In 50 years time, people will still be watching videos of O'Sullivan. There will never be anyone quite like him again. Pure genius.

jamie brannon said...

I'm glad this has been included, it was more than just one of the best displays in a final, for me,it was the ultimate performance in any snooker match I have witnessed.

I remember ranking it fourth in my list of great sporting moments of the 2000's. For flair, artistry, and pure genius it was uncomparable to anything we have seen or are likely to witness.

Throughout his career, Ronnie has had difficulty with patience and application, but has still managed to triumph in four UK Championships and three World Championships. I wouldn't write him in off those events yet, but this is his best chance of adding to his haul of 'big 3' events.

TazMania said...

The 2007 masters was the best ronnie played ever, any chance 50-60 break, he beat ding so badly he suffered for 3 years! I would say of all the performances in the worlds and other tournaments the 2007 masters final is only second to his 5 min max as a performance.

Anonymous said...

Ronnie put his hands around Ding because the audience acted like crap with the chinese player.