Ronnie O'Sullivan at the 2011 Paul Hunter Classic

After 17 days of titillating snooker at the World Championship in Sheffield, just one man was left standing. After a two-day final over the 1st and 2nd of May, Ronnie O’Sullivan once again secured the sport’s holy grail. In a tournament of upsets and a season of unforeseen winners, O’Sullivan’s victory re-established him as the world’s number one player and unequivocally underlined his credentials as the greatest snooker player of all time. By tying with Stephen Hendry’s tally of seven world titles there are no more records to overcome for the Essex cue-man, a supplementary win next year would possibly be the only remaining target for a glittering career.

“O’Sullivan refused to wilt and with icy cool composure he saw out the match 18-13”

The action unfolded in the Crucible Theatre, the home of snooker since 1977, and the annual transformation of Sheffield from the steel city to the snooker city was in full flow. One by one the big names arrived and one by one they bit the dust. Defending champion Mark Selby won plaudits for his brave admission of mental health struggles and gave a stout defence of his trophy, falling in a tense encounter to rising Chinese talent Yan Bingtao. Breakthrough star Zhao Xintong could not add to his UK Championship win in December after a dire second round performance. Four-time winner John Higgins fought with his usual tenacity but could not find an answer to O’Sullivan’s genius in the semi-finals. Pre-tournament favourite Neil Robertson lit up the event with a 147 break, only the twelfth in its history, but lost 13-12 in a classic encounter with Jack Lisowski.

144 players started out but only two remained for the showpiece final. O’Sullivan sailed through the competition, despite a tough challenge from John Higgins in the semi-final. In the final, he prepared to battle 2019 victor Judd Trump, who reached the final after a 17-16 thriller versus Mark Williams. Trump had little expectations for the tournament and his start to the final appeared to bear out this pessimism; O’Sullivan was at his scintillating best and roared into a 12-5 lead after the opening two sessions. However, the second day of the final did see Trump extoll his own brand of ‘naughty snooker’ and with a barrage of pulsating pots he pulled back the deficit to just 14-11. In the race to 18, though, O’Sullivan refused to wilt and with icy cool composure he saw out the match 18-13.

“His success since 1992 has sustained British interest and captured the imagination of a new generation of players”

A tearful O’Sullivan made history, doing so without so much as a dent in his armour. A magnanimous Trump admitted “It’s been a pleasure to share a table with him” and that despite the ever rising standard in snooker his opponent “keeps getting better and better”. O’Sullivan named this his “greatest result” and thought the secret of his success was that he “never bothered about records” and just loved playing the game. As he raised the cup dating back to 1927, surrounded by his children and rapturous applause, the Rocket had once again lit up the snooker world.

Termed ‘people’s champion’, O’Sullivan has been snooker’s biggest name since the mid 1990s. His success since 1992 has sustained British interest and captured the imagination of a new generation of players. Trump, Xintong, Bingtao and a legion of others cite the Rocket as their inspiration. His importance for the sport’s profile cannot be under-estimated either. O’Sullivan, alongside Higgins and Williams, form snooker’s ‘class of 92’ and together they have kept the flame of snooker flickering over the past three decades.


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Victory in the World Championship earned O’Sullivan a cheque for £500,000, a handsome payday for a man who describes himself as a part-time player, but O’Sullivan’s victory has also underscored snooker’s undoubted renaissance in Britain. Throughout the 1980s the sport was on front pages, chat shows and news bulletins. Over eighteen million people watched the 1985 World Championship final, while figures like Steve Davis and Jimmy White regularly achieved multi-million pound sponsorship deals. Yet, since the millennium snooker experienced mismanagement and a draining of British TV contracts; the sport burgeoned in central Europe and Asia but fell away in its homeland. A takeover by Barry Hearn in 2010 was a turning point and the number of tournaments in the home nations has since quadrupled. The BBC viewing ratings of nearly five million for the last session of the tournament are the highest in many years. The coverage of O’Sullivan’s triumph on the front page of the Daily Express and Daily Telegraph points to a revival of attention by print media too.

There is little question that snooker finds itself back as a significant player in British sport. One that has an equally major ambassador to spread its virtues. For all the controversies that have permeated Ronnie O’Sullivan, whether it be failed drug tests or lewd gestures, the man remains snooker’s hottest asset. Whilst the rest of the tour wait for Ronnie the Rocket to crash land, he continues to take his sport into orbit.