Success for the “Rocket” also sees him break the record for all-time ranking event victories.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the 2020 Betfred World Snooker Championship after an 18-8 defeat of Kyren Wilson at the Crucible Theatre on Sunday.
Resuming 10-7 in front after a nervy opening day of the final on Saturday, O’Sullivan shifted through the gears to race clear of his challenger in Sheffield.
The sixth seed won seven frames on the spin to lead 17-8 heading into the final session of play, where he quickly notched up the clinching frame with a brilliant break of 96.
Triumph for the 44 year-old brings his tally of world crowns to six – equal with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon, and just one behind Stephen Hendry’s modern-day record of seven.
The famous win also represents O’Sullivan’s 37th career ranking title, which means he surpasses Hendry on that particular list in the record books after more than a year of being tied with the Scot on 36.
Despite being the most talented player in the game, there were many who doubted whether Ronnie O’Sullivan could enjoy the elation of glory in a World Championship again.
Since squandering a large lead to Mark Selby in the 2014 final, the Englishman had generally looked disinterested with the 17-day marathon of the mind, conjuring up self-destructive distractions that ultimately led to his premature downfall each year.
Yet, in 2020 O’Sullivan generally looked more focussed on the task at hand, and even though he often struggled to produce his A-game he crucially managed to keep his fragile temperament in check.
The lack of a crowd for most of the event, alongside the fact that there was less media to deal with backstage as a result of the restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, probably all helped in orchestrating this result.
It may not go down as his best world title in terms of the level of play that he produced, but he proved on countless occasions that his will to win remains strong.
@ronnieo147 6 times world champion – amazing. Well done – Im sure there’s a few more in the locker. @KyrenWilson – great effort mate – your day will come I’m sure. Thanks to everyone that made this event happen. I’m very proud of all of you.
— Barry Hearn (@BarryHearn) August 16, 2020
After thrashing Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-1 with a 13-second average shot time in the first round, O’Sullivan edged Ding Junhui 13-10 in a much closer last-16 clash.
The next two rounds saw the former world number one fight back from seemingly unrecoverable positions to overcome a pair of three-time world champions.
O’Sullivan overturned a 7-2 deficit against Mark Williams to reach the semi-finals, where he dug deep from 16-14 behind in order to deny Mark Selby in a classic decider.
The 20-time Triple Crown event winner subsequently amused many pundits in his post-match interview by claiming that he was simply searching for a good cue action.
While it seemed ludicrous to think that arguably the best player in history could be taken seriously in that regard, his poor form at the beginning of the final itself highlighted the inner demons that he was indeed battling within his own game.
O’Sullivan’s long-range potting was especially vulnerable, but fortunately for him he faced an opponent who became overawed by the occasion.
Wilson played good snooker to inflict the “Curse of the Crucible” on Judd Trump in the last eight, but an emotional 17-16 semi-final victory over Anthony McGill appeared to sap the energy from the 28 year-old.
O’Sullivan coasted to an 8-2 lead, an advantage that ultimately proved too significant to retrieve.
As the favourite wrestled with his inability to play perfect snooker, Wilson did mount a comeback that saw him twice get back to within two frames on the penultimate day.
A huge piece of misfortune in the 15th frame, when he inadvertently knocked a red in while potting the blue, and a crucial missed red two frames later let O’Sullivan off the hook.
When Wilson failed for a third time to draw to within one frame at the outset of the third session, it was beginning to become obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to handle the pressure at the pivotal moments.
O’Sullivan was hardly going to underperform for long, and benefiting from some extra early-morning practice he reeled off a succession of decent scoring contributions to heap misery on a maiden finalist whose confidence completely unravelled.
Once the commanding buffer was reestablished, he sensed the winning line as all the great champions have done in the past.
And what this World Championship has demonstrated, as if anyone really needed reminding, is that Ronnie O’Sullivan is the sport’s most formidable champion.
Whether or not he can strive now to equal Hendry’s magnificent seven at the Crucible will be a question that can be answered on another day.
For now, O’Sullivan and his legion of supporters can revel in a latest astonishing achievement that sees him return to his dutiful perch as the champion of the world once again.
Featured photo credit: WST