Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Shaun Murphy 10-5 in the final of the Betway UK Championship to equal two long-standing records held by Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.
O’Sullivan rose to the occasion at the business end of a high quality final in York by pulling away from 5-5 to reel off the last five frames in just 60 minutes to take the £170,000 top prize. During the contest he made three centuries and seven more breaks over 50.
It’s his sixth UK Championship title, bringing him level with Davis, and 18th Triple Crown victory, a record held by Hendry since 1999. O’Sullivan adds his half dozen UK titles to seven at the Masters and five at the World Championship.
Playing arguably the most consistently impressive snooker of his career at the age of 42, O’Sullivan has won three ranking titles in an golden seven-week spell in which he has banked nearly £450,000 in prize money. He landed the English Open in October and the Shanghai Masters in November and his career tally of ranking crowns now stands at 31, just five behind another of Hendry’s records. He also reached the final of the Champion of Champions last month, losing to Murphy.
Chigwell’s O’Sullivan, who won his first UK title 24 years ago, is up from fourth to second in the world rankings. Only Mark Selby – with whom he has shared the last six Triple Crown titles – is ahead of him. One of the fittest players on the tour in body and – with the help of psychiatrist Steve Peters who was present tonight – in mind, he clearly has the sharpness, form and motivation to win silverware again and again. O’Sullivan now heads straight to Glasgow for the Scottish Open which starts on Monday.
Murphy missed the chance to double his tally of UK titles having lifted the trophy in 2008, and also lost a ranking final for the third time this season, though he did land the Champion of Champions crown. The 35-year-old, winner of seven ranking titles, earns £75,000 and climbs to fifth in the world.
Tied at 4-4 after the first session, O’Sullivan won the opening frame tonight with a break of 75. He led 32-4 in the next when he missed a tricky red to a top corner, and Murphy capitalised clinically with an 80 clearance.
O’Sullivan regained the advantage with a 104 then made a 76 in the next to lead 7-5 at the interval. Murphy had two early chances in frame 13 but could only make 18 and O’Sullivan punished him with 103, his tenth century of the tournament, to go three clear.
Again in the 14th Murphy was in first but he over-cut a tough black with the rest on 49. And again O’Sullivan punished him with an 86 clearance as he went 9-5 ahead. And runs of 59 and 49 in the next frame saw secure him the title.
“I just went out there and tried to be professional and ignore how I was feeling,” said O’Sullivan, whose only defeat in a UK Championship final came last year against Selby. “I missed a lot of balls all tournament and you don’t expect to win titles unless you’re on 70 or 80% of your game. So I’m a little bit surprised to come out on top this week but I’ll take it.
“It’s just nice to win another title, though I don’t even really feel excited by it, I don’t get too emotionally involved now. Playing snooker keeps me out of trouble, if I wasn’t playing I’d probably be going off the rails. As long as I play snooker it’ll keep me reeled in.
“I look forward to the Masters because it’s around the corner and it is a great event. Hopefully I can pick my game up and dominate a tournament rather than just scramble through.”
Asked how he would spend his recent earnings, O’Sullivan added: “I’m not motivated by money. It’ll help my friends and my family and maybe I could put it into a foundation for people that really need it because giving is a much better feeling. I enjoy my happiness and money can’t get you that.”
Murphy said: “I thought the better man won by far. When you play Ronnie O’Sullivan in any match your game has to be the best it could possibly be. He is the greatest player we’ve ever seen and unfortunately today for whatever reason my game wasn’t good enough.
“I thought the difference today was his safety, it had me in real trouble most of the time. I’m not the world’s best tactical safety player and he exposed those weaknesses as true legends do.
“This was my fourth final of the season so the positives of this season drastically outweigh the negatives. I’ll be a little bit sore on the train up to Glasgow tomorrow thinking about what could have been, but I can’t do anything about it and I’ll be trying my best next week.
“For Ronnie to still be winning majors and to have equalled records while playing against opponents who are so much better than they ever were in snooker’s perceived heyday is a massive feather in his cap. As long as he keeps enjoying playing we’ve all got the pleasure of seeing him for many years to come.”