O’Sullivan had lost his previous five ranking finals and gone 16 months without a title; even his most dedicated fan must have doubted whether he could still rise to the occasion on the big moments. He proved the doubters wrong tonight with a sensational display at the tail end of a superb match.
The Rocket was never ahead until the 15th frame, but having struggled with his game all week in Coventry, his technique and confidence clicked as he rifled in pots from all angles, making a difficult sport look ridiculously easy.
O’Sullivan’s reward is a 38th ranking title, extending a record he already held, a top prize of £100,000, and perhaps most importantly, renewed belief that he can beat the very best players when it matters most. However often he repeats his mantra of the enjoyment of his time on the circuit being more important than results, this victory is sure to give him deep down satisfaction.
In capturing his first trophy since the 2020 Befred World, Championship, O’Sullivan extends his record gap between first and most recent titles, having won his first 28 years ago at the 1993 UK Championship. The 46-year-old from Chigwell moves up to third place on the one-year ranking list and looks set to qualify for all three events in the Cazoo Series, as well as earning a spot in next year’s Cazoo Champion of Champions.
Robertson may rue missing his chance to build a lead in the first session when he was well on top, but from 7-5 he made very few errors. The 39-year old Australian failed to become the only player to win two titles this season having landed the BetVictor English Open last month. His career ranking title tally remains on 21 and he banks £40,000 as runner-up.
After sharing the first session 4-4, Robertson took the opening frame tonight with a break of 59. In the next, he was 27 points behind with just the colours left but missed his chance to force a respot when he rattled the yellow in the jaws of a baulk corner, allowing world number three O’Sullivan to level at 5-5.
World number four Robertson took the lead for the fourth time with a break of 128 in frame 11, then in the 12th O’Sullivan missed a red to a top corner on 49, letting his opponent in for an 88 clearance to lead 7-5.
If that felt like a momentum shift, there was a bigger one to come. After the interval, O’Sullivan blitzed through four frames in just 37 minutes with top breaks of 90, 77 and 77 and take a 9-7 advantage.
A trademark long red from Robertson set him up for a break of 78 to reduce his deficit, and he had first chance in frame 18 but made just 7 before a miscue as he attempted to pot the black. That proved his last shot as O’Sullivan sealed the title with a run of 77.
“Neil was playing the best snooker and he’s the younger guy, he’s at his peak and I’m past my peak, so he was favourite, but strange things happen in sport,” said six-time World Champion O’Sullivan. “Some of the other great players didn’t win much after the age of 30 so it’s good to just be playing at the age of 46.
“I am always working on little things in my technique. Players like me and Alex Higgins are unpredictable, we are just looking for a feeling, and sometimes when you get that feeling…bang! Everything is off and running again. I get that feeling every day from running, but it is an amazing feeling.
“The difference in the atmosphere when I’m playing well is a different energy, and it’s nice to bring that energy to the people, to a venue and to a game. Only certain sports people have that. Tiger Woods, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Lionel Messi, they bring something which keeps you intrigued. I have that when I get going – I suppose that’s why people have gravitated towards me.
“I’d rather play well and lose, and be involved in a good match, than win and play awful. If I had won tonight without finding an extra gear, I would have been disappointed and felt bad for the fans. Because I got a buzz and Neil played well, it was alright. When you are stinking gaffs out, it’s not a nice feeling. Neil is a lovely guy, a great sportsman, a great ambassador for snooker and Australia.”
Robertson said: “I could have had a lead after the first session, but Ronnie battled really well to win the last frame and make it 4-4. I felt great throughout the whole final. At 7-5 I just wanted three more chances. Ronnie came out and played some superb stuff. The only thing that annoyed me was the miscue on the black at 9-8, I would have loved to force a decider. I know Ronnie lost a few finals last season, so as a fan of the game and a fan of him, it was fantastic to see him play so well tonight.”