Ronnie O’Sullivan makes history with eighth UK title but admits lack of ‘buzz’

By Sports Desk December 03, 2023

Ronnie O’Sullivan repelled the determined challenge of Ding Junhui to become the oldest winner of the UK Snooker Championship in York, 30 years after he claimed his first title at the tournament at the age of 17.

O’Sullivan, who turns 48 on Tuesday, triumphed 10-7 after a heavyweight battle with his Chinese opponent, sealing a record-extending eighth UK crown with an exhibition-style finish of 129 amid raucous scenes at the Barbican.

Hauled back from 4-1 and 7-5 leads by Ding, who like O’Sullivan won his first UK title as a teenager in 2005, the world number one dug deep when it mattered and consecutive breaks of 100 and 74 set him up for his final flourish.

But amid the inevitable uproar, O’Sullivan cut a somewhat underwhelmed figure, admitting his latest win lacked the “buzz” of some of his earlier successes, and said he had even found himself struggling for motivation as the opening session loomed.

“I’m not sitting here with a massive grin and super-excited,” said O’Sullivan. “I just go through the motions a lot of the time.

“It’s great to win and I give my best when I’m out there and I want to win, but it’s not the same excitement as years ago when I was winning my first world and UK and Masters titles, and you’re buzzing.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a nice feeling and a job well done, but I get more of a buzz from going for a run in the morning or having breakfast with my mate.

“I don’t actually feel like ever playing. Once you get down there you think you’re glad you’ve done it, but even in this match today I was thinking I didn’t feel like it, I’d rather sit on my bed and watch a bit of Netflix. I feel like that a lot of the time.”

It was an admirable effort from the Chinese player, who had clambered off his sick bed to sink defending champion Mark Allen on the opening day having seriously considered withdrawing from the tournament.

But ultimately O’Sullivan, who had seldom been required to find his best form during his journey through the tournament, had just enough to leave Ding contemplating a second consecutive final defeat.

Ding had clawed back to level at 4-4 at the end of an absorbing opening session, after a series of costly errors gifted O’Sullivan the early advantage.

Three times the 36-year-old blew early frame-winning opportunities to fall 3-0 then 4-1 behind before belatedly stirring to reel off three frames in a row including breaks of 114 and 70.

O’Sullivan wasted no time in re-establishing his lead in the first frame of the evening with a break of 84, but there was a hint of impatience in the next when he opted not to play on despite trailing by 51 and only requiring one snooker.

Ding appeared intent on pressing home his advantage but was punished for taking on some risky long shots in the next two frames, O’Sullivan edging ahead again with breaks of 40 and 87, then emerging from a scrappy spell in the next to reach the interval 7-5 in front.

A hard-earned 58 from Ding brought him back within one frame before a magnificent 104, his second century of the final, pulled him level again.

Anything Ding could do, O’Sullivan could do too, and the momentum swung back in the direction of the world champion in the next frame when he responded with a century of his own, a 100, his first of the final.

A brilliant pink from O’Sullivan set him up to move one frame from victory with a break of 74, and he completed his win in his own irresistible fashion with his second three-figure finish.

Ding, who was also beaten in last year’s final by Allen, reflected: “The first half was disappointing because I had a chance to win more frames but 4-4 wasn’t too bad because I was 4-1 down. I came back to 7-7 but he played so well.

“All I could do was play good safety and make breaks. He just pushed me to make mistakes and it’s all I can do – I can’t do anything else out there.”

Related items

  • Luca Brecel battling illness as he plots World Snooker Championship defence Luca Brecel battling illness as he plots World Snooker Championship defence

    Defending champion Luca Brecel has been battling a mystery illness in the build-up to his return to the World Snooker Championship on Saturday.

    A nosedive in form and the so-called ‘Crucible curse’ – in which no first-time winner has ever managed to retain the title – are not the only issues afflicting the 29-year-old, who faces a tough opener against former semi-finalist Dave Gilbert.

    “I’ve lost my voice a couple of times and I’ve had headaches, a bit like Covid,” said Brecel. “It’s been coming and going ever since the tournament in Saudi (in March), but it’s too big not to play in this one.”

    Despite his stunning breakthrough win last season, Brecel heads to the Crucible with arguably the lowest expectations of any returning champion, having reached a solitary ranking event quarter-final this season.

    And the Belgian is more than happy to accept the underdog status, adding: “I’m up against a very good player and Dave is probably the favourite to beat me, so it’s a nice challenge.”

    Brecel claimed he never practised in the build-up to his famous win last year, in which he edged Ricky Walden in a final-frame decider in the opening round before going on to seal epic back-to-back wins over Ronnie O’Sullivan, Si Jiahui and Mark Selby.

    This year he has at least been putting in the hours on the practice table, and says that having achieved his lifetime goal he is able to approach the Crucible with a more pressure-free mindset.

    “I remember when I played Ricky last year in the decider I was really nervous at 9-9, and if goes to 9-9 now I won’t feel any nerves,” added Brecel.

    “There’s nothing higher than winning the worlds and when you have that goal you always put pressure on yourself, and if you don’t get close to that goal you get frustrated.

    “It’s much easier now. I don’t have that any more. I’ve won it before so it’s just about trying to be a better payer and a better person. That’s my goal now.

    Brecel and Gilbert will play to a finish on the opening day, while Judd Trump gets his quest for a second title under way against Hossein Vafaei, and two-time finalist Ali Carter starts against Stephen Maguire.

  • History-chasing Ronnie O’Sullivan begins World Championship against Jackson Page History-chasing Ronnie O’Sullivan begins World Championship against Jackson Page

    History-chasing Ronnie O’Sullivan will start the World Snooker Championship against Jackson Page as reigning champion Luca Brecel faces David Gilbert.

    The sport’s best take to the green baize at the Crucible from Saturday, with the winner crowned in Sheffield on Sunday, May 6.

    Seven-time world champion O’Sullivan begins his quest for an unprecedented eighth title of the modern era against 22-year-old Welshman Page this weekend.

    Brecel beat Mark Selby in last year’s final and the Belgian gets his defence under way against Gilbert.

    Last year’s runner-up Selby will take on Joe O’Connor in all-Leicester encounter, while third seed Judd Trump will play Hossein Vafaei in an exciting first-round clash.

    Fourth seed Mark Allen faces Robbie Williams in the first round, with sixth seed Mark Williams taking on Si Jiahui.

  • Neil Robertson misses out on World Championship after losing to Jamie Jones Neil Robertson misses out on World Championship after losing to Jamie Jones

    Former world champion Neil Robertson will miss out on the Crucible for the first time in 20 years after losing in the final round of World Championship qualifying.

    The 42-year-old Australian, who won the title in 2010, was beaten 10-9 by Welshman Jamie Jones, whose break of 60 in the decider was enough to take him through for the sixth time.

    Robertson last missed out on the Crucible in 2004 but a desperate season, in which he has reached just one tour semi-final, sent him out of the world’s top 16 and into the qualifying stages.

    Robertson had looked set to pull away and book his place in Thursday’s first-round draw after winning four frames in a row to lead 8-5.

    But Jones responded by reeling off the next three and went on to claim his first win over Robertson after heavy defeats in all seven of their previous meetings.

    Jones said: “Neil has buried me every time I’ve played him, so I haven’t got good memories of playing him before but I stuck with him.

    “I don’t know what it is about this tournament but there is something that just brings out the best in me.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.