Ronnie O’Sullivan became the first player to win the Shanghai Masters three times on Sunday with an entertaining 11-9 triumph over Barry Hawkins at the Regal International East Asia Hotel.
The massive £200,000 champion’s cheque that the “Rocket” pocketed for his efforts, the joint biggest amount to ever be awarded for an invitational tournament, brought his overall career earnings beyond the £10 million mark – the first player in the sport to exceed the milestone.
And while O’Sullivan lifted the Shanghai Masters trophy aloft for the second successive season, having claimed the title ten months ago when it was last staged as a ranking event, the world number three decided to abandon his silverware in favour of surprising two young fans with gifts they’ll remember for a long time.
After celebrating with the cup for the cameras, O’Sullivan offered the trophy to a delighted small boy in the audience and also presented his high break trophy, which he won for knocking in a superb 140 total clearance earlier in the week, to another young girl in the crowd.
Delighted for @ronnieo147 to kick off his season with a win but he’s still coming home trophyless! He gave his winner & high break trophy to kids in the crowd. 🏆 🐐 #ShanghaiMasters#Snooker#Legend pic.twitter.com/Uj9qyMHXYb
— Unify Sports Management (@UnifyMgt) September 16, 2018
It was a nice gesture from the five-time world champion, although it possibly reflected his overall attitude towards an event in which he admitted that he “played liked it was an exhibition.”
O’Sullivan told World Snooker afterwards: “I managed to find something on the practice table before the final session of the evening.”
“I was struggling with my cueing a little bit so it was nice to find something to get through the ball a little bit better and it gave me a little bit better confidence to play with more freedom.
“If Barry had scored heavily it would have put me on the back foot, but he missed a few and it kind of allowed me to get into the game.”
O’Sullivan later added that, despite the high-quality field and the riches available, he didn’t consider the revamped Shanghai Masters to be alongside the sport’s Triple Crown of majors.
It’s hard to argue with that because, while the event was enjoyable in terms of producing several compelling matches via a welcome return to a somewhat longer format, it still didn’t quite boast a prestigious feel in the same ilk as, say, the Masters, UK Championship, or the Worlds at the Crucible Theatre.
Most of the top 16 players who were competing for the honours alongside O’Sullivan will be staying in China with the upcoming China Championship set to take place next week.
That’s an event that O’Sullivan will skip this season as he continues to pick and choose the tournaments that he decides to play in.
“I won all those tournaments last year but I wasn’t really enjoying playing because I was away from home all the time,” the former world number one said.
“I’d rather suffer in the rankings and have a good life so I can pick up my cue every now and then, play for a bit of fun, and treat it quite lightly.”
When we’ll see O’Sullivan on the baize again remains to be seen but his long absences don’t seem to hinder his form much as he continues to rack up title after title on his glittering CV.