Ronnie O’Sullivan’s legacy was enhanced even further after a thrilling 13-11 triumph over Neil Robertson in the final of the 2019 Tour Championship on Sunday in Wales.
The Englishman held off a spirited display from his opponent to claim a record-equalling 36th career ranking title – matching Stephen Hendry’s previously unmatched haul.
It’s another milestone in a season – and career – full of them for O’Sullivan, who also becomes the new number one in the world rankings.
The “Rocket” captured a record seventh UK Championship in December to surpass Hendry’s tally of 18 Triple Crown trophies.
Earlier this month, a memorable 134 in the final frame of his Players Championship final defeat of Robertson represented a landmark 1,000th century break.
By additionally ending Mark Selby’s four-year reign at the helm of the sport, the 43 year-old has also become the oldest player to boast the top spot since Ray Reardon in 1983.
A scary consideration for the majority of his rivals is that O’Sullivan’s standard provides little sign of letting up.
His tenure on the Main Tour is almost three decades old but the five-time world champion is arguably producing his most consistent form ever.
O’Sullivan has featured in nine ranking event title deciders in less than 18 months, from which he has collected eight pieces of silverware.
The fact that he only enters about half of the calendar’s tournaments makes this kind of success rate even more remarkable.
Indeed, O’Sullivan appears to have found the right balance between entering the tournaments he wants to and not falling out of love with the game, which had been his previous downfall on so many occasions.
His 2019 Tour Championship victory proved to be a much tighter affair with Robertson compared to their recent clash in Preston in which O’Sullivan dominated.
The Australian recovered from losing five frames on the spin in the opening session to regain parity at 8-8, and again at 10-10.
Both players had emerged from titanic tussles earlier in the week with black-ball glories against Selby and Judd Trump.
Another close finish was on the cards but the fans were denied a decider when, after moving 12-11 in front, a break of 89 helped O’Sullivan to the £150,000 champion’s cheque.
A man at the top of his game.
🏆Record-equalling 36th ranking title
📈18th different ranking title
At 43 years old, O’Sullivan becomes the oldest World No.1 since Ray Reardon and equals Stephen Hendry’s record 36 ranking titles. Incredible… 🙌 pic.twitter.com/CsTostqxvT
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) March 24, 2019
It was a fine end to a gripping week of snooker that underlined the importance of incorporating the use of various formats in the calendar.
There were times at the beginning of this decade, when there was the huge influx of new events, when it seemed like every week was just another best of seven fest.
However, there’s an increasing balance being found between tournaments that require the shorter guise in order to include the entire circuit and more prestigious competitions that can implement a stronger test.
It is in these kinds of events that have elite fields where O’Sullivan tends to be at his most devastating.
The testament to this lies in his record in the likes of the Champion of Champions, Masters, and more recently in the events that make up the Coral Cup series.
O’Sullivan’s next challenge will be to break Hendry’s all-time record and perhaps simultaneously resume his hunt of the Scot’s seven world titles when he competes at the Crucible next month.
The gruelling 17-day test isn’t referred to as the “Marathon of the Mind” for no reason and O’Sullivan has failed to handle the intense pressures, both internally and externally, since his painful final reverse to Selby in 2014.
Still, it’s hard to imagine a time when O’Sullivan has been more imperious above the chasing pack.
For the first time in nine years, the stats and his return to the world number one position can have nobody stating otherwise.