RONNIE O’Sullivan made a record 12th competitive 147 break to complete a 9-3 win over Ding Junhui in the Welsh Open final last night and even switched to play left handed before sinking the final black.
The Chigwell cueman led 7-1 after a one-sided opening session and, after Ding hit back with consecutive centuries, he pulled away again.
O’Sullivan rounded the match off in the ultimate style with a maximum, playing to the crowd as he switched to his left hand and potted the black.
A kick on the final blue threatened to derail the maximum but the five-time world champion potted a good pink and finished the job.
Asked when the 147 entered his thoughts, O’Sullivan said: “I think it was on about 48 when I went into reds, they split nicely and I looked at the scoreboard and saw it was all blacks.
“I thought ‘no, just get the match won’, but on about 60 or 70 I thought ‘I’ve got to go for it’.”
Regarding the swift change of hands before the final ball, he added: “I’ve made 11 (maximums) right-handed . . . that counts as a left-handed 147 because if I missed that, it wouldn’t have counted!” The win saw 38-year-old O’Sullivan add a ranking title to his season’s haul of the Masters, Champion of Champions and Paul Hunter Classic.
He had been in form throughout, making three centuries in his 6-2 semi-final win over Barry Hawkins having earlier disposed of last-16 opponent Ricky Walden in just 48 minutes.
Ding battled past Joe Perry 6-4 in his semi-final to keep alive his hopes of equalling Stephen Hendry’s record of five ranking titles in a season, but was to be denied by a vintage performance.
O’Sullivan was quickly into his stride, moving 3-0 up with a break of 91 in the second frame and one of 70 in the next.
Ding finally got on the board in a tight frame before the mid-session interval and made a 55 break in the first frame back, but O’Sullivan scrapped his way back to win the frame.
It was a demoralising blow for Ding, whose appearance in his corner betrayed his concern as O’Sullivan extended his lead to 5-1 with a 92 break.
The Chinese star’s long pot success was down at 25 per cent and when, after almost 42 minutes without potting a ball, he was gifted a great chance in frame seven, he could make only 48 – not enough to win the frame.
O’Sullivan did so instead after doubling the final blue, and he added the next for an imposing 7-1 lead going into the evening session. Ding made exactly the start he required with back-to-back centuries – 109 and then a 121 featuring a superb penultimate red – to come back to 7-3.
But breaks of 48 and 49 settled the next in favour of O’Sullivan before his grand finale.
It is O’Sullivan’s third Welsh Open triumph, having previously won in Newport in 2004 and 2005. The tournament will move to Cardiff next year and O’Sullivan said: “This is one of my favourite venues, it’s a shame it’s not here next year. Cardiff is nice, it’s a great venue, but it’s not a patch on this – this is a proper snooker venue.”
He took the time to pay tribute to his beaten opponent and tipped him for many more tournament wins in the future. “I want to congratulate Ding,” he said. “He’s won four this season and if he’d won this he would have equalled Hendry’s record.
“He’s got three or four more events to go and I still fancy he’ll do it. I hope when I slow down, he can win plenty more – you should enjoy him, he’s very special.”
O’Sullivan is evidently in excellent fettle as he prepares to defend his world title at the Crucible next month.