Let's take a look at the past. Ronnie never defended a major. He came incredibly close in the 2010 Masters final but as we all know it ended in one of his most painful defeats ever. He put up a good fight in 2002 to retain his World title but he was stopped by an superb Stephen Hendry. He fell apart against Peter Ebdon in 2005 who mentally destroyed him. He felt the pressure in 2009 against Allen in the final session and couldn't step it up.
It's one of the biggest challenges in snooker to win the title but it's an even greater feat to retain it. A couple of years ago I came to the conclusion that the successful defense of a World title is the biggest achievement possible in snooker. Why? Because there's an overwhelming pressure on the defending champion. No player wants to lose the status of being the best player in the World. Nobody wants to let go of that magnificent trophy. Deep down it's the biggest dream of every player who won the World title to somehow defend it. Graeme Dott was completely destroyed after he lost in the first round in 2007. I was devastated in 2009 after Ronnie lost to Allen.
Only Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry achieved that in the Crucible. No John Higgins, no Mark Williams in their prime could do it. Now Ronnie did it. At the age of 37 and after taking a year long break from competitive snooker.
It was an overall masterclass performance. But just like last year the most impressive thing about him was his incredible Higgins-like mental strength and determination.
Ronnie played like he never left the Crucible against Campbell only his long pots didn't go in. He clinched 2 very important frames to not go behind. After that he pulled away. With Carter he ran into the first in form opponent who was determined to finally beat his old foe. And at 7-7 Ali put Ronnie bang under pressure and what happened? Ronnie won 13-8. O'Sullivan took one of the most successful players of the season completely apart in the quarter finals. No other player could have done that to Bingham this year. In the semis Ronnie played Judd Trump, who always caused him trouble over the last years and who beat Ronnie more often than Ronnie beat him. But Ronnie was overall clearly the better player and was never really in danger due to some good matchplay and heavy scoring. In the final Ronnie faced his biggest challenge because Barry Hawkins played out of his skin and put Ronnie under pressure. O'Sullivan made 6 centuries (and he could have had even more), had a pot success of 93% and still couldn't shake off the Hawk. But he responded always at the right time with a big break and protected his lead. He took the title once again.
As a fan I enjoyed last years triumph more because my hopes of Ronnie ever winning a World title were fading and it was such a long time since his last "big one".
But objectively this is Ronnie's greatest ever achievement. Even greater than his first World Title. Even greater than winning the Masters with a brand new cue.
This is the pinnacle of Ronnie O'Sullivan's career. He overtook John Higgins his greatest rival and is only 2 titles away from the most successful player who ever played the game.
Ronnie O'Sullivan created another masterpiece that takes him even higher in the pantheon of snooker.
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