Those pondering what it says about snooker that a player can return barely having played since the previous year and successfully defend the world title are considering the wrong question.
They should be asking what it says about Ronnie O’Sullivan. And what it says about him is what we already knew: that he’s the best player who ever lived.
He hasn’t always been the most disciplined. He hasn’t always treated snooker with the dedication and respect it requires. For these reasons he hasn’t won as many titles as his fine talent perhaps deserves.
But at his best he is the best and he proved it again in Sheffield this year with a devastating march to a fifth world title.
And he had to play well in the final. The sneers Barry Hawkins had to endure before it began were unfounded. Hawkins played brilliantly but may look back on two key frames which O’Sullivan won on the black, the last of the second session and the third frame today.
I’m not really one to gush, but the clearance O’Sullivan made to win this latter frame was of a quality as high as you are ever likely to see. It was sublime.
There won’t be any snooker player who watched him this year – regardless of personal opinions about O’Sullivan – who won’t have been impressed. He has set the bar and the rest are all beneath it.
What has particularly impressed has been the quality of his matchplay. We all know he can pot great balls and make big breaks but his safety has been exemplary, as has his self control. He has kept his notoriously volatile emotions in check for all of the 71 frames he needed to become world champion again.
The Crucible has been in thrall to this charismatic man since 1993. That’s twenty years of drama and joy, heartbreak and controversy, sound bites and breath-taking snooker. As ever, we have been left wondering how much more we will see of him.
As for what comes next for Ronnie, I suspect even he doesn’t really know. He has proved his competitive desire is still strong. He has proved he can stay focused for the greatest test a snooker player can face – the 17 day marathon of the mind – but whether he will want to slog round the circuit is another matter. With the new prize money ranking system he won’t have to in order to protect his position.
Uniquely this year during the course of the championship he retired and then unretired. But this is all part of the enigma and, indeed, one of the reasons many don’t take to him.
Ronnie is Ronnie. Like Alex Higgins before him he doesn’t seek approval or respectability. Like Higgins he divides opinion.
What nobody can seriously deny is that he played at this year’s World Championship to a level the rest could not match.
Whatever the next chapter in his life and career – an intertwining potboiler which has kept fans and detractors around the world fascinated for more than two decades – he has delivered a satisfying sequel to last year.
He said originally that he wouldn't play but he came, he saw, he conquered. The imperious Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on top of the snooker world…just where this extraordinary player belongs.