O'Sullivan masterful in retaining world title against spirited Hawkins
Ronnie O'Sullivan won a fifth World Championship title in a superb display of snooker against Barry Hawkins with a rousing 18-12 success at Sheffield's Crucible.
Over the course of 30 action-packed frames, the two Englishmen produced a final to remember after a somewhat-disappointing tournament to justify a packed Crucible’s use of their Bank Holiday free time.
Crucible runner-up Hawkins made a cool £125,000 but, more importantly, proved he deserves to be regarded as one of the world’s elite players.
Unfortunately for him, his maiden world final came against the imperious O’Sullivan, for whom the term ‘world-class’ is a bit of an insult to his uncanny abilities. The five-time champion takes home £250,000 with the title.
After going behind for the first time in the competition at 3-2 on Sunday, ‘The Rocket’ went on to edge the first three sessions by one or two, turning in two century breaks in each to send records tumbling.
Despite playing impressively in both attack and defence to keep up with O’Sullivan, Hawkins saw two crucial frames – the 20th and 23rd – in session three fall apart on one critical ball and end in steals by the champion.
What slim chances ‘The Hawk’ had of pulling off one of the Crucible’s great upsets appeared all but over after that as he entered the concluding period 15-10 down, but he started session four remarkably strong with a 127 total clearance capped by a ridiculous doubled final black up and down the entire table's length, followed by 66 for 15-12.
O'Sullivan punished a chance for a third straight Hawkins frame after a missed fourth red with a run to 77, before an 88 break in frame 29 left him one away from retaining his title after the final mid-session interval of the clash.
And one was all he needed, though after rattling the final yellow with his title-clinching break at 86 he missed out on another record: the final had a total of eight century breaks which tied the 2002 final between Stephen Hendry and Peter Ebdon.
Hawkins certainly won over a host of new fans in his first world final as the 25th man to make it that far, but the supreme talents of O'Sullivan were too much for the Cinderella story to be completed at the expense of a fifth rise to the top of the mountain, perhaps Ronnie's most impressive to date.
Session three report
Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan continued to develop his lead over Barry Hawkins in the World Championship final, and takes a 15-10 advantage into the concluding session on Monday evening.
O’Sullivan has not been able to blow surprise finalist Hawkins away as widely expected, but that extra level of quality ‘The Rocket’ brings to the baize has seen him edge all three sessions played so far, totalling a five-frame advantage and putting him in prime position to retaining his Crucible crown.
Hawkins began the day with two breaks over 30 to seize control of the frame from O’Sullivan and cut the 10-7 lead the champion brought into Bank Holiday Monday’s play to just two.
O’Sullivan, however, took far less time easing into the game this time around as he had in the first two sessions and tucked away breaks of 54 and a 76 clearance in frame 19, either side of Hawkins sportingly confessing to a foul shot, before taking the 20th in a manner which appeared to be a turning point.
After fluking a red which put him in more trouble than anything else, O’Sullivan watched as Hawkins worked around an unkempt table for 46 only to come up tight on frame red and fail to put it away.
O’Sullivan’s 54 clearance to steal was masterful in technique, considering that he had to convert big colours to avoid requiring snookers despite the remaining reds being up in baulk.
It appeared to be a killer blow for Hawkins’ slim hopes, but his reaction was superb: a deliberate 90 break fell just short of another century for this big-hitting final, but showed the world that the underdog had not given up.
O’Sullivan, too, knew he could not afford to take his foot off the gas – and he did the opposite, racking up a terrific 133 total clearance for 13-9 before going five clear for the first time after another crucial Hawkins miss on 40 left the door open for a 67 clearance.
Those two blown frames were no doubt Hawkins’ best chance of making an almighty scrap of this final, and though he held his nerve in a see-saw frame 24 to clear with 47 for 10-14, the session would indeed end with a difference of five after more O’Sullivan genius.
A 124 to the final black, kicked off by an audacious doubled red to middle pocket, not only ensured a third session victory for the incumbent, but sent another record of seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry tumbling: a sixth ton in one Crucible final from O’Sullivan bested the Scot’s all-time high of five.
Hawkins won eight consecutive frames against Ricky Walden in the semi-finals when all seemed lost, but while the quality of his snooker thus far suggests such a feat is not impossible, O’Sullivan’s spectacular 95% pot success suggests that the impressive run of ‘The Hawk’ will fall one hurdle short of the promised land.