Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui 10-3 in the final of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix, and has now won four ranking titles in a single season for the first time in his career.
O’Sullivan made three centuries and three more breaks over 50 in a dominant display at the Guild Hall in Preston to take this title for the first time and capture the £100,000 top prize.
It’s the 32nd ranking title of his career, leaving him just four behind Stephen Hendry’s record of 36. O’Sullivan has now won over £600,000 in prize money during the 2017/18 campaign and could become the first player to go past the £1 million barrier in a single season – indeed the £425,000 winner’s cheque at the World Championship alone would take him past that mark.
He had only once previously won three ranking titles in a season – back in 2004/05 – but having landed the English Open in October, Shanghai Masters in November and UK Championship in December, he has now surpassed that – and with five ranking events still to go this term. One more crown would see him equal the record of five in a season, held by Hendry, Ding and Mark Selby.
At the age of 42, O’Sullivan has produced the most consistently excellent snooker of his career over the past five months, with his long potting, break building and tactical game all in superb shape. He remains second behind Selby in the world rankings but the gap is closing.
China’s Ding missed out on the 14th ranking title of his career and second of the season, having won the Yushan World Open in September. The world number four banks £40,000 as runner-up.
The first four frames today were shared, then Chigwell’s O’Sullivan pulled away as breaks of 124 and 105 put him 4-2 ahead. Ding won frame seven on the colours to stay in touch, but his opponent made 59 and 120 (his tenth century of the tournament) to lead 6-3 at the end of the first session.
O’Sullivan took the first two frames of the evening session to extend his advantage to 8-3. Ding had a scoring chance in frame 12 but made only 16, then banged his head on the side of the table in frustration as the contest slipped away. O’Sullivan punished him to make it 9-3, and a quickfire break of 83 in the next completed the scoreline.
“It wasn’t the best performance, I dragged Ding down to my level,” said O’Sullivan, who won his first ranking title back in 1993 at the same venue, when the UK Championship was staged in Preston. “He lost his concentration and I took bits and pieces. I’m always going to score, even when I’m not at my best my cue ball control is still good.”
Asked whether he felt when he won that 1993 title he would still be collecting silverware a quarter of a century later, O’Sullivan replied: “Yes, I always believed I could dominate the table, if the form is there titles will just come. It’s great to have 25 years since my first title and hopefully this isn’t my last.”
O’Sullivan now heads straight to Cardiff for the Welsh Open which starts on Monday (click here for the match schedule). He added: “It sounds weird but it might be good to lose early there, spend a week in the punditry box, do some analysis and watch the others slug it out. I’ve got my title in the bank.”
And looking ahead to the Crucible in the Spring, where O’Sullivan has triumphed five times, he said: “I don’t think I’m capable of winning another world title. You need a lot of staying power there and I am too old. I can play well over a few days, but the World Championship is all about stamina and consistency which is not suited to my game at the moment. But we’ll wait and see.”
Ding said: “I had chances in the first session but didn’t take them. It looks like I played rubbish. It is a always dream to play Ronnie in a final and I wanted to play well against him – it doesn’t always happen, but I tried. For the last few months I didn’t play well, but I felt good this week.”