Finals

O’Sullivan Still The Man

Ronnie O’Sullivan coasted to his sixth Masters title on Sunday evening after hammering Barry Hawkins 10-1 in London.

Ronnie Masters Trophy

This was O’Sullivan’s 11th Masters final – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos. 

The triumph brought the 40 year-old’s tally on a par with Stephen Hendry, who must be beginning to wonder what records he’ll have left by the time the ‘Rocket’ ends his career.

O’Sullivan is into his fifth decade, usually the kind of time when players begin their inevitable decline down the rankings.

However, when he chooses to compete, O’Sullivan remains a dominant force on the snooker scene, highlighted by his ability to win the prestigious invitational at Alexandra Palace despite rarely demonstrating his A-game.

The Chigwell cueist played well throughout the competition, and indeed was superb on occasion during each of his four encounters, yet there was plenty of evidence to suggest that there was an even greater standard laying dormant within.

O’Sullivan came within a whisker of exiting in the last 16 when Mark Williams ran him close in a deciding frame thriller – arguably the match of the season so far – but prevailed comfortably in each of his subsequent clashes, including against the world no.1 and world champion.

In the final, Hawkins was perhaps fortunate to escape with winning the opening frame but that was as good as it got for the 36 year-old.

Making his debut appearance at this stage in front of a packed partisan crowd was always going to be difficult for the former World Championship runner-up, but even so he will be extremely disappointed with his personal performance.

Hawkins had quite a few chances in several of the frames but failed to settle.

O’Sullivan compiled a wonderful 136 total clearance in the third frame to move ahead and he never looked back as he capitalised on the umpteen errors made by his opponent.

The nine-frame victory eclipsed the previous record for the largest margin in a best of 19 Masters final, while it also matched the 9-0 demolition that Steve Davis inflicted on Mike Hallett in 1988.

What this success proves beyond any doubt is that O’Sullivan is capable of winning any tournament he enters regardless of any recent participation.

While some may have opined that his 2013 conquering of the Crucible – again over poor Hawkins in the final – after a year-long respite from the sport was merely a special one-off fluke, O’Sullivan’s ability to repeat the trick is rather conclusive.

Yes, the five-time world champion didn’t meet any of the current in-form players, such as Neil Robertson, Judd Trump or John Higgins, but their own inability to manoeuvre their way through the rounds in search of a crack at the best in the business is their fault, not O’Sullivan’s.

It will be interesting to see what events, if any, he chooses to contest between now and the World Championship in April.

In the past, the more that O’Sullivan played the greater the likelihood of an implosion, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s the last we see of him before Sheffield, bar maybe the Championship League Winners’ Group which he has already qualified for.

Either way, O’Sullivan remains the man the remainder of the field continues to chase and it must be concerning for his primary rivals that he can afford these hiatuses and still lay claim, easily, to being the top dog.

Overall, despite the unfulfilling finale, the 2016 Masters was a very memorable and entertaining edition of the famous tournament.

And one that produced a more than worthy champion.

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