Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the Masters for a record seventh time after a 10-7 victory over Joe Perry at the Alexandra Palace in London.
The ‘Rocket’ got off to a slow start, falling 4-1 behind during a shaky first session, but reeled off seven frames in succession to take control of the contest.
Perry, who was featuring in a maiden major final at the age of 42, fought gallantly in the end but the damage was done as O’Sullivan lifted the renamed Paul Hunter Trophy.
It could have been oh so different for Perry had he been able to maintain his composure after establishing an initial advantage.
The odds were completely stacked against the ‘Gentleman’ from the off having only tasted success against the five-time world champion on two occasions out of their previous 15 encounters.
But Perry surprisingly began the much more aggressively as crowd favourite O’Sullivan appeared to struggle with the expectations of a history making triumph.
A superb 115, added to prior runs of 72, 58, and 75, helped Perry establish a three-frame advantage but he crucially had opportunities to extend his lead further.
Misses in each of the next three frames allowed O’Sullivan in to level at 4-4 and, upon the resumption of play in the evening session, the defending champion pounced on his opponent’s increasing nerves to reel off a further four consecutive frames.
After the last mid-session interval Perry finally woke up with impressive breaks of 117 and 92 to reduce his arrears to two frames but, to the delight of his legion of supporters, O’Sullivan moved to the brink of history with a century of his own – his only one of the final.
To Perry’s credit, he continued to battle hard and won another frame to keep the final alive.
He had chances to reduce the gap to one frame but O’Sullivan, biting the tip off he added to his cue during his wonderful last four win over Marco Fu, cleared the colours to clinch victory.
For Perry it marks a disappointing end to what was otherwise an excellent week for the world no.9.
Only recently Perry was questioning his commitment to the sport but how quickly it can turn around, highlighted by the most unlikeliest of turnarounds against close pal Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals on Saturday.
But against O’Sullivan he came up against a player who was always going to be the overwhelming favourite for a momentous glory.
The 41 year-old was nowhere near his best but took advantage of an inexperienced challenger at this level, whose mid-match blip proved ultimately costly.
O’Sullivan’s tentativeness at times could have related to the fact that he had lost his previous four finals in 2016 in tight tussles with Judd Trump, John Higgins, and Mark Selby.
Yet, it’s hard to keep a champion down and victory on Sunday for O’Sullivan represents a 17th title in a Triple Crown event.
Overall, it was another terrific edition of the Masters, which continues to be one of the most enjoyable tournaments on the calendar.
There were tons galore at the outset of the week but the tournament concluded under typically tense circumstances.
O’Sullivan eventually overcame the last hurdle to add another notch to an already illustrious career.