Ronnie O’Sullivan survived a stunning fightback by Judd Trump last night to be crowned UK Championship winner for a fifth time.
It was 21 years ago that the five-time world champion first lifted the UK crown, but he had to fend off a comeback from Trump who trailed 9-4 before levelling the contest, only for a dazed O’Sullivan to crawl over the finish line to triumph 10-9.
O’Sullivan described the match as “one of the hardest” of his glittering career, and admitted at 9-9 he thought he had lost the match and £150,000 winner’s cheque.
“I had accepted I was going to get beat, the way Judd was hitting the balls,” he said.
“For the whole match I had the upper hand, but lost a bit of concentration and went off the boil at 5-3.
“But from 9-5 to 9-9 he has not missed a ball, and just knocked everything in. I didn’t have a chance.
“It was such a tough game. My mind was gone, I felt really nervous. If I had lost it from 9-4 the disappointment would have been unbelievable.”
O’Sullivan has a 100 per cent record in UK finals, having won all four previous finals in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2007.
And the world No 4 looked set for an early finish when he raced into a 5-1 lead in the afternoon session with breaks of 82, 41 and 81. Neither player was producing sparkling snooker, but Trump was failing to capitalise on his rare chances.
He resorted to Twitter, to claim: “Absolute poop so far need to play 10x better to have a chance.”
Trump – who made his major breakthrough by lifting the UK title three years ago – at least gave the scoreline some respectability by scrapping out the final two frames of the afternoon to trail 5-3 in the best-of-19 contest.
Trump made a bright start on the resumption, making impressive breaks of 48 and 56 in the opening two frames, but failed to get over the line.
And twice O’Sullivan came roaring back to pinch both frames. In the ninth frame, O’Sullivan cleared with a 53 break, before grabbing the following frame too, with breaks of 36 and 31. At 7-3, Trump was on the ropes and needed a response.
It was almost deja vu when the Bristol potter made a 48 before missing a red to the far corner, allowing his opponent in once again. This time, though, O’Sullivan failed to seize the chance and saw his lead cut to 7-4. ‘The Rocket’ is closing in on Stephen Hendry’s record number of century breaks, and took another step towards the 775 target with a 133 clearance in frame 12.
It was the first century clearance of the final, and O’Sullivan’s 770th. In frame 13, the 39-year-old looked like he would add to that tally, but broke down on 54 before returning to clinch the frame with a 35 clearance. It was proving to be a familiar pattern, where neither player was clinching the frame in one visit.
At 9-4, O’Sullivan stood one frame away from completing his fifth UK title, matching the number of Masters and world crowns he had collected in a trophy-laden career.
Trump had only shown flashes of his undoubted brilliance in the final, and a 42 break again stalled on a missed red, although it proved enough to prolong his evening. The 25-year-old’s top break of 56 in the opening 14 frames was a damning statistic.
Maybe it was standing on the precipice, but Trump relaxed and produced back-to-back centuries of 120 and 127 to make it 9-7.
He was now on a hot streak, Trump following up with a fluid 86 to cut the deficit to one frame.
It was the sort of heavy scoring treatment that O’Sullivan would normally mete out, but the Essex cueman was starved of any time at the table.
He finally had chances to clinch the title in the 18th frame, but faltered on breaks of 21 and 38, as world No 11 Trump cleared the table with 67 to take the match to a deciding frame.
It took a snooker to scupper Trump’s late surge, O’Sullivan pouncing with a decisive 51.
“Towards the end I was giving in, but I got a few chances and felt relaxed. I didn’t bottle it and gave it my best,” said Trump.
“You can’t be giving five-frame leads to Ronnie, and I left it too late. Overall he’s a deserving winner.”