Ronnie O’Sullivan was the toast of Sheffield last night as he beat Barry Hawkins 18-12 to become the first player for 17 years to make a successful defence of the Betfair.com World Championship title.
The ‘Rocket’ resumed with a commanding 15-10 lead over Hawkins ahead of the concluding session of their best-of-35 frame showdown at snooker’s major tournament.
And that meant the sport’s box office star only needed to win three more frames to secure an impressive fifth world title and the £250,000 first prize.
O’Sullivan needed just over an hour to do that as he eased to victory against Hawkins, the world No 14, who will be credited with producing a spirited performance in his first-ever Crucible final.
With victory O’Sullivan became the first player since Stephen Hendry, the seven-time world champion, in 1996 to make a successful world title defence.
“I never came here expecting to win it,” admitted O’Sullivan, who punched the air in delight with his victory.
“But I worked hard with [Dr] Steve Peters I’ve managed to manage my mind and my emotions better than I’ve ever done.
“That’s the hardest anyone has pushed me. I just hung in there. I just couldn’t get him [Barry] off me.
“My mood has been up and down like a whore’s drawers, but I’ve had a great time coming back. I still love playing, but I do need other things to balance my life.
“I had everything to lose and nothing to gain. To the outside world I should never lose, but everyone on the snooker circuit knows that’s not the case.
“One good thing this tournament has done has got me a wildcard into the Masters.
“There’s lots of pressure and attention, which makes it really tough.
“Retaining the World Championship is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
“What I’ve done will probably sink in in a few days.”
O’Sullivan became the first player in history to compile six centuries in a Crucible final in the 35 years it has been played at the iconic venue.
Hawkins, who pocketed £125,000 as a worthy runner-up, said: “He’s got to go down as probably the greatest player ever.
“What he has done is unbelieavble after having a year out. I don’t think anyone else could do that and go through the field like he has. He’s just a phenomenal talent.
“The game is better with him in it.”