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O’Sullivan Max Seals Third Welsh Crown

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Even by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s standards, tonight we saw something special from him as he not only defeated Ding Junhui 9-3 to win the Welsh Open title for the third time in his career, but did so with a record 12th maximum break in the final frame.

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  • Click here to view all of the results from the 2014 Welsh Open
  • Click here to view the updated projected seedings list
  • Click here to view the latest provisional money list
  • Click here to view the updated 147s list
  • Click here to read my interview with Ronnie from December 2013

It was the final that everyone wanted, even Ding Junhui himself as he told Mark Johnston-Allen following his semi-final victory against Joe Perry yesterday, but from an early stage it was clear that there was only ever going to be one winner today as Ronnie O’Sullivan dominated the 2014 Welsh Open final.

That is not to say that Ding did not have his chances, at least two frames during the afternoon session could easily have gone his way, notably the first during which Ding missed the last red when in to clear, but it was O’Sullivan who won seven of the eight frames played to leave himself needing just two from the evening session.

To his credit, Ding came out fighting tonight, back to back century breaks seeing him close the gap to 7-3 and raise fleeting hopes of a fight-back. As he missed a pressure mid-range red in the next however, it was only going to be a matter of time before O’Sullivan got over the line to secure victory.

We would not have long to wait as in frame 12 O’Sullivan soon found himself with a chance and immediately on the black, it was no surprise to see him stay there, with the possibility of a grandstand finish looking very real.

From an early stage, particularly once he had gone into the bunch, the break looked to be on and the only obvious problem ball appeared to be one red which had found its way up into baulk. Leaving it until last, he was able to give himself a shot that perhaps only he could have been backed to pull off, a left-handed deep screw, to pot the red into the green pocket and come back down for the black.

As the white came back down and finished perfectly on the black, we had seen perhaps already the best shot of 2014 and going on to complete the 147 with a final left-handed shot on the black, it was a fitting end to what looks to be the last Welsh Open tournament ever to be staged at the Newport Centre.

Ronnie’s victory sees him take home the top prize of £60,000, in addition to the rolling high break prize won last by Mark Selby at the UK Championship and represents his third Welsh Open success and 26th ranking event title of all.

There are few superlatives left that can be used for O’Sullivan, but magical 147 break aside, what really stood out this week for me were his clearances to steal frames, particularly during his matches against Barry Hawkins and Ding Junhui which effectively transformed what could have been two tight encounters into runaway victories.

Joe Perry summed it up best earlier when he said that playing Ronnie is different to playing any other player. There is definitely an aura, a ‘Ronnie factor’ about him at the moment which means that right now, very few players are able to produce their best snooker against him.

Having already won four ranking event titles this season, Ding has proved to everybody just how good he is and against any other player would no doubt have performed much better during this afternoon’s opening session, but like Mark Selby at the Masters back in January he looked nervous early on and O’Sullivan was quickly able to build up an unassailable lead.

That is of course though to take nothing away from O’Sullivan, who might not enter every tournament these days, but when he does is proving more difficult than ever to handle and the signs look ominous ahead of the latest defence of his world title next month.

Further reflections on the tournament as a whole will follow tomorrow, but for O’Sullivan, next up will be the Players Championship Grand Finals at the end of this month, while for Ding the AT4 event later this week will be next on his list.