Finals

Prince Ronnie Crowned in Wales

Ronnie O’Sullivan won the 2016 Welsh Open in style on Sunday after coming from behind to defeat Neil Robertson in Cardiff.

Ronnie O'Sullivan Masters 15

Ronnie qualified for March’s World Grand Prix with the victory – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

It’s the fourth time O’Sullivan has emerged with the trophy in Wales, matching John Higgins’ record, and the 40 year-old collects £60,000 for his efforts.

Two things were widely expected ahead of the final in the Motorpoint Arena – Robertson would put up a determined challenge against the favourite, but that ultimately the ‘Rocket’ would prevail.

And while both of these premonitions did in fact materialise, the manner in which the showdown unfolded was a tad unexpected.

Robertson began in confident fashion, controlling the tactical side of proceedings to grant him the ample opportunities that helped him surge into a 5-2 lead.

At this point, O’Sullivan wasn’t playing badly but simply wasn’t allowed into the game and was left to rue a few unfavourable runs of the ball.

Yet, from then on the Australian couldn’t win another frame and, what had been turning into a tight tussle to the finish, eventually transpired to be a relatively comfortable and confident triumph for O’Sullivan.

Key moments arrived at the end of the first session and the outset of the evening’s bout of play.

By winning the eighth frame, O’Sullivan guaranteed that he was only two frames behind, rather than four, as the pair took their brief respite.

Upon the resumption, the Chigwell cueist duly punished a series of missed chances from his opponent to turn the initial two-frame deficit into an advantage of similar margin at the last mid-session break.

At that point, Robertson’s head had gone while O’Sullivan, a notoriously cocky front runner, was finally in his element.

The 141 total clearance from the five-time world champion to seal the success, his tenth ton of the tournament, perfectly highlighted the stellar week he had enjoyed in the Welsh capital.

With the victory, O’Sullivan joins Higgins and Steve Davis at joint second on the all-time ranking event winners list with 28 – eight behind Scotland’s Stephen Hendry.

What must be severely worrying for all of his rivals is not just the fact that O’Sullivan is winning, but how he is winning.

At the Masters, he didn’t even play particularly well but still, barring a close opening round battle with Mark Williams, was crowned at a canter.

In Wales, he was superb from his opening match against Barry Pinches, when he knocked in the controversial 146, right the way through to final – losing just 11 frames in seven encounters along the way in capturing the title.

He wins when he’s good and he wins when he’s not at his best, but what perhaps is most ominous to the remainder of the chasing pack is his attitude.

O’Sullivan was in a very happy and disciplined state of mind for the last seven days and, while there have been some blips and there inevitably will be more again in the future, his moody dips, when he is at his most vulnerable on the table, are fewer and further between than in the past.

Can he sustain this level of zen for an entire 17-day marathon at the Crucible is the biggest question of them all, and one we are all eagerly awaiting the answer to as he chases his sixth World Championship in April and May.

For Robertson, it was an unusual and uncharacteristic collapse from the Australian, but it just goes to show how much pressure even the best players in the world are put under when they come up against O’Sullivan.

Overall, the Welsh Open continues to emerge from the doldrums of around a decade ago when nobody really cared much for its existence.

This year’s edition was a thoroughly entertaining affair with so many talking points, including but not limited to Ding Junhui’s wonderful 147 break in the quarter-final.

One of the minor grievances was with the crowd, who at the beginning of the week especially were a little muted, although perhaps that sensation was multiplied as a result of the event’s position on the calendar – immediately following the German Masters, where the audience enthusiastically applauds almost every shot.

The fans did come in their droves, though, with a packed house almost every day for the majority of the sessions, which were scheduled at an alarming rate of randomness by the organisers.

Still, no hiccups could mask the fantastic snooker on display and the appearance of O’Sullivan and Robertson in the final arguably marked the first big final since the 2015 German Masters whereby there wasn’t a surprise name competing for the winner’s cheque.

Next up is the Gdynia Open in Poland, the last European Tour event of the season where positions in the Players Championship and World Grand Prix are among the lucrative stakes to play for.

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