Ronnie O’Sullivan won his fifth ranking title of 2017/18 – equalling the record for the most in a single season – by beating Shaun Murphy 10-4 in the final of the Ladbrokes Players Championship.
O’Sullivan was not at his best in the final in Llandudno, failing to score a single century break, but made several crucial clearances, winning five frames from at least 23 points behind, and that swung the contest in his favour.
Having already landed the English Open, Shanghai Masters, UK Championship and Ladbrokes World Grand Prix crowns this season, O’Sullivan matches the record of five in a single campaign, set by Stephen Hendry in 1990/91 and equalled by Ding Junhui in 2013/14 and Mark Selby in 2016/17. O’Sullivan has played in ten ranking events this season, winning half of them, and has taken the title every time he has reached the semi-final stage.
The £125,000 top prize takes O’Sullivan’s earnings for 2017/18 to £798,500, the second highest ever in one season, with Selby’s record of £932,000 within his sights. Indeed O’Sullivan could break the £1 million barrier by winning next month’s China Open even before he heads to the World Championship.
The 42-year-old’s career total of ranking titles now stands at 33, just three behind Hendry’s record of 36. In his current form and frame of mind, O’Sullivan could surpass all of Hendry’s records by the time he retires.
He remains second in the world rankings but closes the gap on first place, and could go to the Crucible next month with a chance to take the top spot from Mark Selby, who has held it for over three years.
Murphy has now lost all four of the ranking finals he has contested this season including the UK Championship where he lost 10-5 to O’Sullivan, though he did win the invitational Champion of Champions with a 10-8 defeat of the Rocket.
O’Sullivan led 6-3 after the first session and extended his advantage in the opening frame tonight, coming from 43-0 down to take it with a 92 clearance. Murphy pulled one back with a superb 137 total clearance and he had a scoring chance in the next frame but missed the blue to a baulk corner when trailing 40-7, and O’Sullivan made 54 to go 8-4 ahead.
Again in frame 13 Murphy missed a ball at a key moment – a red to a centre pocket – and again O’Sullivan punished him as his run of 76 made it 9-4 at the interval. Murphy also had first scoring opportunity in the 15th but could only make 23, and O’Sullivan’s 85 took him past the winning post.