'Rocket' O'Sullivan pockets 5th Shanghai Masters title
Snooker World No. 1 Ronnie "Rocket" O'Sullivan defended his title in Shanghai on Sunday evening, defeating the No. 2 ranked Luca Brecel 11-9 in the final of the Shanghai Masters at the Shanghai Gymnasium.
The seven-time World Champion not only pocketed the 210,000 pounds (US$260,266) top prize, but also received overwhelming support from the audience throughout the one-week tournament.
Brecel powered into to the best-of-21-frames final by overcoming 23-time ranking event winner Neil Robertson in their semifinal clash, while O'Sullivan proved his persistence by conquering a handful of old adversaries, including fellow Brit Mark Selby and Scot John Higgins, to secure his fourth consecutive final in the Shanghai event.
The last time O'Sullivan and Brecel met was at last season's World Championship, when Brecel prevailed 13-10 and went on to pick up a sensational maiden Crucible crown.
The afternoon session of the Shanghai final saw O'Sullivan emerge with a 6-4 lead. The competition became fiercer in the evening session when they tied at 7-7. The defending champion then fired in breaks of 143 and 120 on his way to three in a row, leaving him one from the title at 10-7.
In a dramatic 18th frame, Brecel managed to extend the tie with a stunning table length double on the final black to make it 10-8. The Belgian went on to clinch the next frame to change the score to 10-9 before O'Sullivan got his job done in the tense 20th frame to secure his fourth straight Shanghai title.
"I just tried hard," O'Sullivan said after the victory. "I mentally thought that plan A was to go out there, dominate and score breaks. Plan B was to keep my focus and emotions in check. I tried not to lose it out of frustration.
"It was one of those tournaments. I was well below par, but in moments I played alright when I had to," he said.
It had been a week where the 48-year-old O'Sullivan needed to dig deep to remain in the running. He battled back from the brink at 2-5 down to beat Higgins 6-5 in their quarterfinal match, and had to overcome moments of severe pressure throughout his semifinal clash against Selby.
"I've learned so much over the years, that I know what to do," O'Sullivan said. "It is just whether I can be bothered to do it all of the time. Sometimes it is hard to be giving 100 percent all of the time. I've been doing this for 40 years so you get tired and the motivation is not the same as when you were younger. I accept that and it does get harder to keep doing it."
O'Sullivan still managed to spare some time for a city walk and some filming for his Chinese social media followers.
"I think I can still play in a competitive form for another six to eight years. I'll come to China more often. There are a lot of quality tournaments and a huge snooker population here," he said.
The Shanghai tournament was making a return to Shanghai after years of absence caused by the COVID pandemic.
Local favorite Ding Junhui did not manage to reach the final eight after a defeat to Neil Robertson on Wednesday. Robertson then eased past another Chinese player Fan Zhengyi to advance to the semis before being eliminated by Brecel.