Ronnie O’Sullivan won the 29th ranking title of his career, matching the total of John Higgins, by beating Kyren Wilson 9-2 in the final of the Dafabet English Open in Barnsley.
O’Sullivan was in superb break building form as he made four centuries and five more contributions over 50 in a one-sided final. His pot success rate was 98% over the contest and he won the last six frames in just 70 minutes before receiving the Steve Davis Trophy and a cheque for £70,000.
This was the first of the season’s Home Nations events and O’Sullivan is now a quarter of the way to winning a £1 million bonus. If he goes on to win the remaining three events in Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff then he would bank that unprecedented prize. He heads to the Northern Ireland Open next month to continue the quest.
It’s O’Sullivan’s first ranking title since he won the 2016 Welsh Open, 20 months ago. The 41-year-old from Chigwell has now overtaken Steve Davis on the all-time list of ranking event winners and drawn level with Higgins on 29 crowns, though he’s still well short of Stephen Hendry’s record of 36.
An ankle injury suffered while running almost forced O’Sullivan to pull out before the event started, but he overcame that discomfort and ended the week by proving that, when in-form and focused, he remains a devastating force on the baize. The presence of psychiatrist Steve Peters in his corner for much of this week’s tournament was surely a factor in O’Sullivan’s success.
He moves up from 12th to 9th in the world rankings ahead of a busy schedule which could see him play in seven more tournaments before Christmas.
Kettering’s 25-year-old Wilson missed the chance to win his second ranking title having earned his first at the 2015 Shanghai Masters. He has now lost his last three ranking finals, against tough opponents in Anthony McGill, Ding Junhui and now O’Sullivan. The £30,000 runner-up prize sees the Warrior up from 15th to 12th in the rankings.
O’Sullivan carved out a 6-2 lead in the first session with top breaks of 115, 54, 131, 77, 87 and 96. Wilson had chances to close the gap in the first frame of the evening session but couldn’t take them and a run of 50 from O’Sullivan made it 7-2.
By now unstoppable, O’Sullivan compiled brilliant runs of 127 and 132, his 11th and 12th centuries of the tournament, to finish the match in style.
“It is great to win another ranking title. I am my own worst critic at times but it was very, very good today,” said the Rocket. “I made a lot of good and important breaks, and felt good among the balls. I will keep driving myself on to reach a higher level.
“I am enjoying the challenge of hanging in there against these young players, but you play well if you have to – and I know what a good player Kyren is. The foot is ok, I suppose I have to give some credit to the trainers I have been wearing all week!”
Asked about the £1 million bonus, O’Sullivan added: “Listen, it is another 21 matches and it is do-able. Anything is possible but over these short matches that are best-of-seven frames, it will be very tough.”
Wilson said: “I feel like I made it too comfortable for Ronnie at times. He obviously put me right under pressure, he played out of his skin today. To hold that level of concentration throughout the whole day was very impressive.
“I didn’t feel like I was completely out of the match after the first session. I wasn’t making elementary mistakes, but I was catching the odd safety thick. I felt like when I got in to score, I was alright. I knew I had to try and get off to a good start.
“I’ve lost to Ding and Ronnie in finals this season. They both played out of their skin. They both said it was one of their best performances in finals. It’s nice to know that they feel they have to play like that to beat me. But I wouldn’t mind doing it to somebody else!
“Ronnie was a hero of mine growing up. So it is nice to have him say good things about me. I just have to focus on my own game and try not to get too carried away with myself.”
Victory for O’Sullivan means that Liang Wenbo is now sure of a place in next month’s Champion of Champions.