Ronnie O’Sullivan equalled Stephen Hendry’s modern-day record of seven snooker World Championship titles by stopping a Judd Trump rally in its tracks with an 18-13 win in the final on Monday.
The showpiece match at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre was in the balance when the evening session started, with O’Sullivan leading 14-11 in the best of 35-frame contest after 2019 world champion Trump had bounced back from 12-5 down overnight earlier in the day.
But O’Sullivan, at 46, the oldest World Championship finalist since mentor Ray Reardon in 1982, then dominated proceedings before sealing victory with a break of 85.
A sporting O’Sullivan paid tribute to Trump by telling the BBC: “As far as I’m concerned this fella is already an all-time great the way he plays the game.
“I tried to be as relaxed as I could but that was probably the greatest result I’ve had against somebody like Judd.”
O’Sullivan, nicknamed the ‘Rocket’ for his speed round the table and widely regarded as the greatest natural talent in snooker history, played down his achievement in matching Hendry’s tally of world titles by adding: “I’ve never bothered about records — when you get them, it’s kind of nice, I’ve never performed well if going for that, I’ve just tried to enjoy my game.
“I don’t have targets. I’ve loved every tournament this year, I’ve just loved playing. I like to win but it’s not the be-all and end-all.
“The Crucible brings out the worst in me — it’s probably not the best idea but we’ll probably go again next year!”
‘Best player of all time’
Trump added he had been up against the greatest player in snooker history.
“I want to say massive congratulations to Ronnie,” he said.
“It’s been a pleasure to share a table with him. It’s an amazing achievement and he’s the best player of all time.
“He keeps getting better and better. His determination and dedication are clear to see. He’s been the best player this tournament by quite a distance.
“I was just glad to make a match out of it,” the 32-year-old left-hander added.
Trump’s hopes of completing what would have been an astounding comeback were effectively ended within minutes of the start of the concluding session in this all-English clash as O’Sullivan rattled in breaks of 82 and 88 in a matter of minutes to move within two frames of victory.
Trump, however, stopped the rot with a break of 64, although O’Sullivan was still 16-12 ahead.
But the next frame saw O’Sullivan produce a break of 75 to leave him just one frame away from glory following the mid-session interval.
Trump was first in come the next frame and had the better of a safety exchange before an excellent break of 109 — which broke the previous Crucible tournament record of 108 centuries — prolonged the contest.
But he ‘jawed’ an attempted pot in the next and O’Sullivan, after a brief safety exchange, made light of a tough red along the cushion to spark a match-clinching contribution.