It was fitting that, 30 years after Alex Higgins tearfully embraced his baby daughter, Lauren, on the Crucible stage, Ronnie O’Sullivan cradled his young son, Ronnie junior, after winning a fourth world title tonight.
Higgins and O’Sullivan are cut from the same cloth, or more particularly baize: controversial characters loaded with charisma, brilliant at snooker, huge box office favourites but liable to invite scorn as well as acclaim.
Tonight saw another chapter written in the life and career of Ronald Antonio O’Sullivan. It was clearly a very satisfying one for a player much discussed but rarely bettered at his best.
Ronnie has lived a tumultuous life but away from the soap opera which surrounds him is actually a nice bloke. All he ever wanted to do was play snooker and it goes without saying that he is a brilliant snooker player.
I don’t agree that this World Championship is the best he’s ever played but it is arguably the most consistent. He has seemed serene throughout, keeping his discipline and his patience, determined to complete the job.
In all departments he has excelled: long potting, break building, safety, tactics and temperament.
He was right in what he said at the end. The World Championship is an endurance test. It requires stamina, both physical and mental. It is clear Dr. Steve Peters has worked wonders with this fractious, fragile spirit.
O’Sullivan did not announce his retirement in the arena. Instead, he said he would take a few months off.
That’s up to him. Players do not have to enter every tournament. He has been fined the last couple of years for entering events and then withdrawing but there is no edict as to how many competitions a player should enter.
The good news for O’Sullivan is that, as world champion, he will automatically be seeded second for every event (other than those in which he is defending champion).
Therefore, he can effectively have a free year playing in as much or as little as he likes.
He’ll defend his title at the Crucible next year. Why wouldn’t he?
Snooker is the glue which holds his life together. How else will he get the kind of buzz he experienced tonight?
O’Sullivan is one of those rare characters who transcends the sport in which he plays. He is a name known to those who don’t follow snooker closely.
Once again, he has put snooker on the map. He deserves nothing but praise for winning a fourth world title.
O’Sullivan already had a free pass to the pantheon of greats but he has just underlined what everyone already knew: that he is one of snooker’s all time legends.
What a player.