Ronnie O’Sullivan won five out of the last six frames to win the 2021 World Grand Prix on Sunday in Coventry.
The Englishman, who extends his record ranking event tally to 38, beat Neil Robertson 10-8 in a topsy-turvy tie that burst into life midway through the second session.
O’Sullivan ends the calendar year, in which he has generally struggled to rediscover his top form, in style by pocketing the £100,000 top prize.
The first session proved to be compelling more for the scrappy snooker being played rather than any degree of quality that many had hoped for ahead of this clash of heavyweights.
Robertson failed to capitalise on a number of golden opportunities to establish a telling advantage early on, squandering 2-0 and 4-2 leads to finish the afternoon play all-square.
The eighth frame was particularly pivotal, with O’Sullivan fighting back from a snookers-required stage to pinch the last before the break in magnificent fashion.
Upon the resumption of play in the evening, the pattern continued with mistakes on both sides allowing the scores to tick on to 5-5.
However, the final changed dramatically after an 11th frame in which Robertson compiled the encounter’s first and only century break – an excellent 128.
When the Australian cleared with an 88 in the next frame to move 7-5 in front it looked as though he might be repeating the outcome of the Tour Championship final from earlier this year when he steamrolled the Rocket in the second session en route to victory in Newport.
But O’Sullivan, who had battled well throughout the day without ever really looking as though he was going to produce his best, finally shifted through the gears following the last mid-session interval.
A rapid contribution of 90 and two additional runs of 77 helped the 46 year-old to four quick frames on the spin as he transformed his two-frame deficit into an advantage of the same margin.
With his back against the wall, Robertson dug deep again and responded with a 78 to stay in touch but crucially miscued when in among the balls at the beginning of the 18th frame.
In trademark style, O’Sullivan duly made the most of his first opportunity to win the match, compiling another 77 to the delight of the crowd inside the arena.
The triumph stops the rot in ranking event finals having lost his previous five since landing a sixth World Championship crown at the Crucible Theatre in 2020.
Robertson will be extremely disappointed to lose a battle that he seemed to have control of at several points only to continuously allow his esteemed opponent back in for reprieves.
Despite O’Sullivan’s patchy form of late, he always has the ability to turn it on when it matters the most and that’s exactly what happened in this 2021 World Grand Prix showdown for glory.
Having returned to the champions enclosure and with full confidence perhaps restored, it will be interesting to see what 2022 holds for the game’s greatest.
Featured photo credit: WST