World number one Ronnie O’Sullivan secured a record-extending eighth MrQ UK Championship title with a 10-7 win over Ding Junhui in York on Sunday night.
O’Sullivan is already the youngest ever UK Champion and Sunday’s victory sees him become the oldest. Just two days shy of his 48th birthday, O’Sullivan eclipses the previous record set by Doug Mountjoy, who was 46 years and 172 days old when he won the title in 1988.
The Rocket’s eighth crown comes 30 years on from the first. He was only 17 years of age when he defeated Stephen Hendry 10-6 to lift the famous trophy in the Preston Guild Hall in 1993. O’Sullivan went on to add further UK Championship wins in 1997, 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017 and 2018, as well as his triumph this year.
The Englishman has now amassed an incredible 22 Triple Crown titles and sees him capture a ranking event trophy for the 40th time in his career. Those statistical feats further cement his status as the greatest of all-time, with his nearest challenger Hendry sitting on 18 Triple Crown victories and 36 ranking titles.
Sunday’s final was a meeting between snooker’s two biggest global superstars. Whilst O’Sullivan shot to fame with his 1993 win, Ding rose to prominence when he followed up his 2005 China Open win with a maiden UK title later that year. The Chinese sporting icon added further victories in 2009 and 2019 to take his UK Championship tally to three.
O’Sullivan scoops the £250,000 top prize and consolidates his position as world number one. The £100,000 earned by Ding secures his place in the top 16 of the world rankings and qualification for the Masters, where he will face O’Sullivan in the first round.
Sunday afternoon’s session saw Ding set up a grandstand finish, after he fought back from 4-1 down to level at 4-4 heading into the evening session.
O’Sullivan stopped the rot as the evening session got underway, firing in a superb 84 break to regain the lead at 5-4.
The pendulum continued to swing, with Ding restoring parity in the tenth, before O’Sullivan took charge with contributions of 87 and 79 to establish a 7-5 lead at the mid-session interval.
With the finishing line beginning to appear on the horizon for his opponent, 14-time ranking event winner Ding summoned a charge to get himself back into contention. Runs of 52 and 104 helped him to take two on the bounce and once again square the match at 7-7.
Typically, when the pressure was at its greatest, O’Sullivan found a way to push himself towards victory. Breaks of 100 and 74 moved him within one frame at 9-7. He then sent a raucous crowd into raptures in the 17th, with a spellbinding 127 break which was greeted with a standing ovation as he secured glory in York once again.
“I love it. I love competing, I love performing, I love playing and I love that I went out there tonight and I used my head. Because at the end of the day I have this thing in my head that people want me to play perfect snooker.
“My friend said to me the other day that they don’t. He said they love your thoughts and love all of the ups and downs of it. I just wanted to go out there today and try hard to be professional and honest. If I won great and if I didn’t then at least do my best,” said a delighted O’Sullivan.
“It was an honour to play Ding. He’s such a classy player and such a classy guy. To share the table with him in that venue and in that final was an honour. I know there will have been so many people in China watching that final supporting Ding and supporting me as well. We’ve put on a good show.
“You get a different appreciation for it. I am really experienced now so I don’t panic as much and I don’t worry. I get times when I think I’m 7-5 up and haven’t really flew. That is because my base level B and C game is still pretty high. You just have to focus, so now I think I use my head more and win matches with my experience more.
“It’s just bonkers isn’t it? That we’re 48 and still winning tournaments. I just don’t get it. Sheffield will be a hard thing to do, because it is 17 days. Physically that will be a tall ask of me, John (Higgins), or Mark (Williams) to win. These tournaments that are a week we can still do it.”
Ding said: “It was a very good week. I knew it was going to be very tough tonight. I missed a couple of shots to win frames in the first session. I tried to get more points and fight to win a frame then get another and see what happens. To be 4-4 was not too bad but he played better tonight.
“I have really taken the crowd here to heart. Thanks for the support every game. I love playing here.”
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