“I’ve been on a roll for 30 years!”
Ronnie O’Sullivan was feeling buoyant after securing a fourth success in the Champion of Champions, and yet the whole thing felt like a minimum of fuss for the 47-year-old.
His 10-6 win over Judd Trump had been harder fought than the scoreline suggests, with Trump coming back from 6-1 down to push O’Sullivan hard, but the world champion showed real class to win three frames on the spin to seal the victory.
O’Sullivan maintains that winning and losing do not matter to him much anymore, and claims that players like Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby are hungrier for titles than he is. But to watch him on the table is to witness a player who is as competitive as ever. As soon as the cueball is struck for the first time in a match, O’Sullivan goes into a zone, especially against the big guns in the sport.
Now, attention will turn to the UK Championship, and it’s no surprise that O’Sullivan is the bookies’ favourite in the UK Championship betting. The seven-time winner clearly lives for the big stage at this point in his career, and there aren’t much bigger in snooker than the Barbican in York.
O’Sullivan’s longevity at the top of snooker is unprecedented, and it’s hard to see him slowing down as he approaches his 50s. His break-building and cueball control is so impressive that he should continue winning tournaments for years to come.
Many had felt that O’Sullivan’s powers were waning in the 2020-21 season, where he lost five finals, but last season proved those assertions unfounded, as he picked up the World Grand Prix and, of course, the World Championship at the Crucible.
Victory at the Hong Kong Masters last month in front of a record crowd of nearly 9,000, along with this latest Champion of Champions triumph, is proof that O’Sullivan still gets up for the big occasion. Neither of those tournaments are ranking events, but it’s clear that the seven-time world champion is motivated by taking on the best players in the biggest arenas — as evidenced by his impressive victory over Trump in Bolton.
It will be interesting to see if and when O’Sullivan does begin to enter the autumn of his career. He seems in a good place at the moment as far as his snooker/life balance is concerned, so for that reason there’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue to play well into his 50s.
While he won’t admit it publicly, the thought of winning an eighth world title and beating the record he jointly holds with Stephen Hendry must be a tantalising one. But triumphing in the 17-day slog that is the World Championship is a big ask of someone in their late 40s, and one wonders if O’Sullivan will be able to muster the energy needed to win that tournament again.
There has been no let-up in the number of titles he’s winning, which suggests that there are plenty more golden performances in the tank for now at least.