Monday, May 6, 2013

Ronnie O'Sullivan 'Rockets' To Fifth World Title; Remains An Enigma

The 2013 snooker World Championships have been about one man and one man only. Ronnie O'Sullivan. It was fitting then that it finished with that man lifting the trophy. Few snooker players, possibly none, have incited as much interest as O'Sullivan. His love-hate affair with the public has been like no other player in the history of the game. There was significantly more love than hate on Monday night when O'Sullivan secured his fifth title at the Crucible.

From the moment it was confirmed that O'Sullivan would defend the World Championship title he won in 2012, passionate and casual snooker fans alike prepared to see what the 37-year old could offer. He may have been a four-time champion and one of the most naturally gifted the game had ever seen, but he also hadn't played in a competitive match since September. Surely O'Sullivan could muster no more than a cameo on snooker's biggest stage?

Not only did O'Sullivan muster much more than a cameo, he did so in fine style. He crushed Marcus Campbell 10-4 in the first round, then dismissed last year's finalist Ali Carter 13-8 in the second. Premier League champion Stuart Bingham looked outclassed in the quarter-final eventually losing the match 13-4. Young developing star Judd Trump fought hard in his semi-final, but O'Sullivan got out in front and never allowed the 23-year old to really get into the match eventually beating him 17-11.

Few people gave Barry Hawkins, who was possibly even more of a surprise finalist than O'Sullivan, much chance against 'The Rocket' in the final and while he competed valiantly, this was just another game where Ronnie got out in front and never looked back. He finished the match with a comfortable 18-12 margin of victory.

O'Sullivan truly was a player who shook the world of snooker when he burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s. He made extraordinarily fast breaks and was one of the purest break builders in the game from a very young age.

Since that explosion onto the circuit he has been in the headlines and media for the wrong reasons just as many times as he has been in them for the right. Whether it be premature retirements or meltdowns around the table, O'Sullivan has rarely been out of the headlines regardless of the snooker he has played. However, as John Virgo said on commentary 'we love watching him play'.

Moments after sealing his victory, O'Sullivan was predictably coy about the possibility of returning to Sheffield to compete again in 2014. His bizarre swings from loving snooker to just wanting something to do to not liking snooker and to being bored have ensured that the off-table story lines have continued to circle him.

The snooker world may never see him play again, or they may see his full return to the tour next season, or most likely something in-between. However, there seems little doubt that O'Sullivan has secured his place in the snooker record books at this year's championship. His fifth championship puts him behind only Stephen Hendry, Ray Reardon and Steve Davis on the all-time winners list. His 131 century breaks at the crucible is a record, his six centuries in the final is a new record both in a final and at the crucible. He managed all of this despite barely playing professional snooker during the 2012-13 season.

Maybe it is fitting that a remarkable and confusing man should end his career in one of the most remarkable and confusing ways.

Written by Sebastian Egerton-Read - you can follow Seb on twitter @SebEread

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