O’Sullivan Downs Gallant Hawkins For Fifth World Title

Congratulations to Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has defeated Barry Hawkins 18-12 to win the 2013 Betfair World Championship at the Crucible Theatre this evening. His fifth title of all, the victory sees O’Sullivan become the first man to successfully defend this title since Stephen Hendry back in 1996, as well as see him take home the top prize of £250,000.

  • Click here to view the final drawsheet
  • Click here to view the final end of season rankings

While many expected the final of the 2013 World Championship to be something of a procession, in reality it proved to be anything but, as Australian Goldfields Open champion Barry Hawkins took the fight to Ronnie O’Sullivan to trail just 10-7 overnight

During the opening day of the final, perhaps for the first time during the tournament, Ronnie had been placed under pressure, Barry winning three frames in a row to lead 3-2, while later winning two frames in a row during the evening session to draw level at 7-7. Ronnie’s response on both occasions was to be telling, back to back century breaks showing exactly what he could do when asked a question, in the biggest possible way.

In a way, this theme was to continue during today’s afternoon session, as though Barry continued to fight hard and impress everybody watching, Ronnie was to steal two crucial frames from behind, which would ultimately prove crucial.

The first came in the 20th frame, as having been very unfortunate to ‘fluke’ a red when he looked to be in control of a prolonged safety battle, O’Sullivan could only watch as Hawkins looked like reducing the gap to 11-9. A miss on a difficult frame ball red however, paved the way for an audacious clearance from Ronnie, which saw him move four clear for the first time in the match at 12-8.

To his credit, Hawkins as he had done throughout the match, replied with a brilliant break of 90 to ensure that the first four frames of the day were shared, however breaks of 133 and 124 from O’Sullivan, together with another steal from behind in frame 23, ensured that Ronnie would finish the third session five clear at 15-10.

As the evening session approached, many wondered whether it would prove to be an easy run to the line for Ronnie, indeed only four times previously had the player leading going into the final session of the World Championship final ended up as the loser.

If so, nobody had told Barry, who came out of the blocks with a brilliant break of 127, before adding the next with 66 to close the gap to 15-12 and ensure that the match would go into a final mid-session interval.

Unfortunately for Barry however, a missed red in the next would prove to be the final turning point of this match, a nerveless 77 from O’Sullivan seeing him stop the rot, before he added the next two frames to complete a remarkable 18-12 triumph and clinch his fifth world title.

More thoughts will following over the coming days as the dust settles, while Ronnie’s quotes will also follow later this evening, but it goes without saying that this is a remarkable triumph for O’Sullivan, who having had (with the exception of that PTC defeat to Simon Bedford late last year), a year away from the sport, has once again made winning snooker’s greatest prize, look almost easy.

As Ronnie explained during his press conferences this tournament, this year was a very different triumph to that back in 2012, when he felt like he was playing so well that nobody could stop him. This time, having not played competitively for all that time, his safety game might not have been quite as fine tuned as a year ago and his long game might not have been as strong as 2012, but his mental strength, his experience and his determination proved more than enough to get him through.

Indeed not just get him through, but no player was able to get within five frames of him during the tournament, which in itself is a scary fact. The subject of whether or not he will play again next season is one that will be hotly debated in the weeks and months to come, but for now let us just concentrate on his latest victory and reflect upon a sporting achievement of some significance.

UPDATE: Selected quotes from Ronnie:

“I thought that it was a brilliant final to be fair. Apart from a bit of last night where we were both a bit ropey, I thought that the snooker was really good.”

“I want to congratulate Barry on another great tournament, a brilliant season. I always knew that he had the talent, the game and he’s got the game to do well at a tournament like this, a bit like [Judd] Trump in many ways. He looks like he could do another World Championship to me, he looks as fresh as a daisy and he is a very efficient player and he put me under a lot of pressure this afternoon, I had to pull some really big clearances out of the bag.

“Tonight he came out all guns blazing and then he missed a couple and I had to make them count because if I didn’t, he could have got back to 15-14 and then you just don’t know what is going to happen.”

On where he would rank this latest title:

“I think the first one for me was always a big one to get over because everyone said that I was the best player not to win the World Championship, that was a massive relief. The other two I just kinda won, I didn’t feel much, I was in a place where I was over-analysing, criticising too much to maybe enjoy it.”

“Last year I came not so much with a point to prove, but having had two lean years, due to various reasons off the table and you hear people writing you off, I worked hard last year with Steve Peters and played in a lot of events. I never came here expecting to win it, but once I had passed my first round I really felt every moment, I felt present with everything, I felt every up, every down and I kinda managed my mind better than I had ever done and I played at times felt the best snooker I had ever played.”

“This year, pretty similar, there were times when parts of my game weren’t great, my long game was off sometimes, my scoring wasn’t great all the time and my safety wasn’t as good as it probably was last year, probably because I haven’t played in as many events, or in any events and you kinda lose that ringcraft, but I managed to play my way through the tournament and got stronger and stronger.”

“I think just my experience and having worked with Steve Peters, I was able to manage my emotions and my mind better than I ever have done which got me through, but at no stage did I feel like I could relax and had it won because you just don’t here. Other tournaments you do, but here it just seems to go on forever and ever and ever so you have to face your demons during this tournament and that’s why it is such a hard tournament to win.

“In some ways it is meant to be the easiest over longer frames, but during that match there were times when I was thinking that you kinda have a different respect for people like Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry now that they have won it six times and to keep having to go through that.”

“To be fair I had everything to lose and nothing to gain in some respects and that was hard. I was reading people saying like it was a procession and I know how good Barry is. To the outside world it looked like I should never lose but everyone on the snooker circuit including myself know what a good player Barry is and he is producing brilliant snooker here these last couple of weeks along with people like Stuart Bingham, they are playing some fantastic stuff.”

“One good thing this tournament has done, it has got me a wildcard into the Masters, everyone has to come in at round one so I don’t think that this is going to affect the rankings so much, but come the season after when it goes to prize money I think it puts me back up there, I haven’t got the mountain to climb that I had last year so in many respects to come here it has given me that chance to rebuild if I want to.”

“But like I said, I still want to just play in these smaller events. I like just playing and there is a lot of pressure and lot of attention here and sometimes, it’s hard. But I intend to play in some smaller events, I intend to keep on playing for the love of the game.”

“I had my year out, I enjoyed my year out, you just don’t know what is going to happen, the game is always changing. I intend to play in some smaller events. Come December, January I’ll have a better idea of what I am going to be doing, whether my heart is in it, but I think for me now it is just to enjoy the moment, enjoy having pulled off one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life, retaining the world championship.”

“It hasn’t really sunk in, when I won my first one I was elated and last year I was elated. Here, I just feel like I have done a job in many respects. It will probably sink in in two or three days time but for me it has just been a dream, when I entered the tournament and done a press conference, for me to win it would have been a dream. It’s Harry Potter stuff isn’t it.”

“I’ve played some unbelievable players in the past and Stephen Hendry for me is still by far the greatest player, not just for his game, but for his bottle, the attitude, the way he played the game. Me, and Phil Yates, we grew up on the circuit together and that man was just awesome.”

“He took shots on that Judd Trump takes on, but he took them with getting on the black, Trump screws back to baulk, but he [Hendry] rolled them in for the black. To me that stands him out as the greatest player of all time. To me there will never be another Stephen Hendry, he was just awesome, he was the equivalent of Phil Taylor, Tiger Woods or Michael Schumacher. They only come around once every…every sport has one, but I think he was snooker’s.”

“I’m probably more in the mould of an Alex Higgins if you like but I just managed to win a few more titles and I probably had a lot more scoring power than Alex which has enabled me to do that, but we are too temperamental to be machines. I’m not a machine, I don’t intend to ever be a machine. I’ve tried to become more of a machine but it’ s hard when you are not a machine. But I’m working on it, I’m trying not to come here and spill my guts out and I’ve done that quite well for the last two years, but I am such an honest guy at times I just can’t help it and I’ve said that I just don’t think I can do this and I truly mean that, that’s how I genuinely feel.”

“But like Davis said, I’m up and down like whore’s drawers and I do change like the British weather, but it can be challenging for me at times. I’ve got my little place in history, but maybe that will be alongside the likes of Alex Higgins I would imagine.”

For all of the praise that will rightly be lavished upon O’Sullivan in the coming days however, let it not be forgotten the part played by Barry Hawkins during one of the best finals in recent years. As Monique Limbos in the media centre observed this evening, when people look at the history books in the years to come and see that Ronnie won 18-12, they may think that the victory was an easy one, but that would not do justice to what was an excellent performance from his unfancied opponent.

Indeed I genuinely believe that had Hawkins been playing anybody else on the tour during the final, then he could well have been the one holding up the trophy this evening, he played that well during all four sessions. There were times during the match when lesser players could easily have buckled, for example as he trailed 0-2, 5-7, 11-8 and 15-10, but he never let his head drop and he continued to fight until the very end.

I hope that Barry will be able to push on from here next season, there is no reason to think that he will not and that he cannot add further ranking event triumphs to his Australian Goldfields Open victory earlier this season. Congratulations to Barry, to his family, to his manager Paul Mount and to coach Terry Griffiths for all of their efforts here this week, which have captured the hearts of many watching.

My thoughts on the tournament and of my experience will follow, probably tomorrow, but in short it has been another thoroughly enjoyable 17 days, as always here at the Crucible. There have been better World Championships here in the past without doubt, but each is memorable for its own reasons and this one will be remembered for Ronnie’s return, as he proved his class on the big stage once again.

And the good news is that from this Saturday, it all kicks off again with the Q School, as snooker’s finest amateur’s look to earn a place on the main tour for the 2013/14 season.

Thank you to everyone that has read this blog or followed my updates on Twitter during the past couple of weeks, it is as appreciated as always.