World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan tasted Crucible glory once more last night – then revealed he plans to take a six-month break from the sport.
Within minutes of being crowned winner at the Betfred.com World Championship in Sheffield after an 18-11 victory over Ali Carter, emotional O’Sullivan said he would take time off from the hectic snooker circuit to spend time with his young family.
The four-times world champion has often hinted at retirement, but work with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters has seen him in a much more relaxed mood at the Crucible this year.
“For anyone to come here for 17 days, it’s an endurance test, the equivalent of the Iron Man,” he said.
“It’s not so much about the snooker, it’s about controlling your emotions and holding it together.
“I have come here to try and entertain at this tournament, to show people what I was capable of.
“I wouldn’t have been playing if it wasn’t for Steve. It’s been tough. I have probably faced things that I didn’t want to face.
“Once I faced them, I was like ‘do I really want to keep facing them?’ Sometimes you just want to run, but I gave it a go this season and this just tops it all.
“A few people doubted me, but I certainly haven’t gone yet.”
Asked how many more world titles he could win, O’Sullivan replied: “I am not going to put a number on it, I am not even going to make any decisions at the moment.
“I am having a good six months off, going to enjoy time with my children – a nice little break - and assess the situation.”
Last night’s title meant at 36 he is the second oldest player – behind 45-year-old Ray Reardon in 1978 – to become world champion in the modern era.
Trailing 10-7 overnight, there was a feeling Carter needed to make inroads quickly yesterday as there is nothing in snooker more dangerous than O’Sullivan in full flow.
Instead the 36-year-old from Chigwell, Essex, reeled off the opening four frames to open up a seven-frame advantage.
The contrast between the players could not have been more severe. O’Sullivan looked calm and relaxed, even taking time to wave to his family, including son Ronnie jnr, in the gallery, while Carter seemed nervous.
A stunning, long red got O’Sullivan in the balls and he rattled in a 101 break, the 70th century of the 17-day tournament.
Twice Carter then left tempting reds near the corner. The first attempt saw O’Sullivan miss and foul on the black, but he left little to pot, and at the second time of asking he powered in a red along the cushion.
After nearly 20 minutes’ play Carter finally potted his first ball of the day – O’Sullivan missed an easy red into the centre to prove he is human after all – but looked uncomfortable centre stage and failed to drop the pink. O’Sullivan pounced to open up a five-frame advantage at 12-7.
It got even worse for Carter, a qualified pilot, whose world title challenge barely got to the taxiing stage in this final. A mammoth safety battle ensued in frame 20, leaving the reds scattered.
Carter had three good chances to win the frame, but faltered on breaks of 21 and 27, before a missed long red proved decisive, the 32-year-old sinking into his seat shaking his head as O’Sullivan cleared the table.
Carter needed to gamble now or risk falling 13-7 behind, but a failed long red handed O’Sullivan a chance and he responded with a 54 break.
The only interruption for O’Sullivan – making his 20th Crucible appearance – came when referee Michaela Tabb had to perform an intricate respotting of the pink amid a cluster of reds.
O’Sullivan – who beat Carter in the 2008 final to win his third Crucible crown – missed the brown into the centre pocket as the frame went down to just the colours and a safety battle on the yellow.
Carter – who came from 12-9 behind to win the last four frames and beat Judd Trump in the quarter-finals – had a glorious chance but went astray on a long yellow and O’Sullivan headed for the mid-session interval needing just four frames to triumph.
The prospect of losing the final with a session to spare was avoided when Carter returned to pinch a scrappy frame and then produced a 105 clearance.
Released from the shackles of expectation, world No 17 Carter – a former Welsh Open and Shanghai Masters winner – looked a different player, a break of 53 stretching his mini-revival.
A 64 clearance from O’Sullivan left Carter needing snookers and that proved too much for his opponent as he headed into last night’s final session trailing 15-10.
When they returned, nothing seemed to have changed – apart from O’Sullivan had switched from a black shirt to a white one – as he reeled off a 70 break.
Carter replied with a 64 of his own in the next frame but it was delaying the inevitable and O’Sullivan’s 46 in frame 28 was enough to nudge him to 17-11, one frame away from joining John Higgins on four world titles.
Victory was assured when O’Sullivan knocked in a 64 break, sparking emotional scenes as he punched his chest, before swiftly being joined by Ronnie jnr amid a ticker-tape celebration.
Dejected Carter said: “Ronnie put me under all sorts of pressure, his safety (play) was better from ball one. If he gets in, he is just genius. It’s great to be in another final, but disappointing to lose.
“I have been to two finals and believe I can win it one day – if Ronnie retires,” he joked.
O’Sullivan’s crowning moment was preceded by an emotional standing ovation for seven-times Crucible champion Stephen Hendry, who announced his retirement from the sport last week.