Ronnie O'Sullivan described winning the 2009 Masters with a new cue as his greatest achievement in snooker.
The Rocket's genius for the sport was underlined by the fact that he won the tournament with a cue he had first picked up just eight days ago - and one day before his opening match against Joe Perry.
O'Sullivan had smashed his old model in frustration during practice but, with a new cue hastily prepared by John Parris, he went all the way to the title at snooker's most prestigious invitation tournament.
"It's got to be my greatest acheivement, to win it with a new cue," said the 33-year-old from Chigwell after his thrilling 10-8 defeat of Mark Selby at Wembley. "I had an hour with it the day before my first match, and I just wanted to get through that one.
"After that I had five days before the quarter-finals and I tried a few others, but then decided to stick with the first one. I was comfortable with it but I can't play certain shots. It's a good cue but John Parris can make me a better one which I can prepare for the World Championship with."
O'Sullivan revealed that he will present the cue he won the tournament with to a friend currently on holiday in Bali, believed to be the artist Damien Hirst, with whom O'Sullivan has struck up a friendship since Hirst came to last season's Crucible final. "It's a nice present to give to someone who has done some good things for me," he added.
As for the match, O'Sullivan said: "I've never had so much bad luck, it was laughable. He had some super-duper run. I was starting to think that I couldn't possibly win, I thought I was fighting something that I can't compete against. At 7-5 down I was resigned to losing unless it evened itself out. If it did, I knew I had a chance, even though I was struggling with my game.
"I wasn't seeing the potting angles as well as I was all week so I had to stay positive and hang in there. From 7-5 I was pleased with how I played."
A disappointed Selby, who lost his title and unbeaten record at Wembley as well as the chance to become the only player other than Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry and Paul Hunter to win the Masters in consecutive years, said: "I thought if it went 9-9 then I can't lose, but it wasn't to be.
"I came here with a lot of pressure on my shoulders because it's my first tournament as defending champion. I came so close to keeping the title and making a bit of history."
Wembley Arena London
The format of play is shown below:
Sunday 11 January 2009
11am – match 7 – Stephen Maguire v Graeme Dott (Eirian Williams) - 6-5
NB 2.30pm – Match 10 – Ronnie O’Sullivan v Joe Perry (Jan Verhaas) - 6-5 :-))
NB 7.00pm – Match 1 – Mark King v Ricky Walden (Michaela Tabb) - 2-6
Monday 12 January 2009
11am – match 2 – Mark Allen v Judd Trump (Jan Verhaas) - 6-4
NB 2.30pm – match 6 – Shaun Murphy v Ding Junhui (Eirian Williams) - 4-6
NB 7.00pm – match 3 – Mark Selby v Ricky Walden (Michaela Tabb) - 6-5
Tuesday 13 January 2009
1.30pm – match 5 – John Higgins v Marco Fu (Michaela Tabb) - 6-4
7.00pm – match 4 – Ryan Day v Mark Allen (Jan Verhaas) - 1-6
Wednesday 14 January 2009
2.00pm – match 8 – Stephen Hendry v Neil Robertson (Michaela Tabb) - 4-6
7.00pm – match 9 – Allister Carter v Peter Ebdon (Jan Verhaas) - 6-0
Thursday 15 January 2009
1.30pm – Mark Selby x Mark Allen (Jan Verhaas) - 6-5
7.00pm – Ding Junhui x John Higgins (Eirian Williams) - 4-6
Friday 16 January 2009
1.30pm – Stephen Maguire x Neil Robertson (Jan Verhaas) - 6-3
7.00pm – Ronnie O’Sullivan x Allister Carter (Michaela Tabb) - 6-2 :-))
Saturday 17 January 2009
2.00pm – Mark Selby x John Higgins (Michaela Tabb) - 6-2
7.00 – Stephen Maguire x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eirian Williams) - 1-6 :-))
Sunday 18 January 2009
2.00pm – Final - Mark Selby x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Jan Verhaas) - 4-4
8.00pm - Final - Mark Selby x Ronnie O'Sullivan (Jan Verhaas) - 8-10 :-)))
All matches up to and including semifinals will be played for best of 11, final will be played for best of 19 frames.
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s two centuries at Wembley tonight means he has now made 42 in the Masters and broken Stephen Hendry’s record of 41.
Hendry has played in five more stagings of the tournament than O’Sullivan.
It also took the total number of centuries seen at the Masters this year to 27 – one more than the 2007 record of 26.
However, I’m not sure this should necessarily be seen as proof of rising standards.
In 1996, there were 21 centuries made at the Masters. Three years ago there were just 11.
The clash between the world's top two ranked players turned out to be a one-sided affair as Ronnie O'Sullivan drubbed Stephen Maguire 6-1 to reach the Masters final.
The Rocket goes through to face Mark Selby in tomorrow's final at Wembley Arena, with the first to ten frames to take home the trophy and £150,000 top prize.
Defending champion Selby is undefeated in seven matches in this tournament, but will need to be at his very best to stop O'Sullivan, who has built his form throughout the week having started using a new cue just before his opening match.
Chigwell's 33-year-old will be contesting his eighth Masters final, and fifth in the last six years. Victory would make him the only player other than Stephen Hendry to have won snooker's most coveted invitation title more than three times.
Maguire played superbly in beating Neil Robertson 6-3 yesterday, but was on the back foot from the start tonight as O'Sullivan opened with a break of 102. The World Champion added a scrappy second before Maguire won the third with a 44 - which turned out to be his highest break of the match.
O'Sullivan breezed through the last four frames with 84, 66, 136 and 70 as he set up a repeat of last year's Welsh Open final, which Selby won 9-8.
"Stephen is ranked second in the world which shows his consistency, so I knew it would be a tough test," said O'Sullivan. "I was pleased with the way I battled, I managed to make a few breaks and stay in front.
"When you're up against one of the top players, it's like being at school when someone is waiting for you in the playground and you know he wants you. You get a few butterflies and that helps you find something, you get inspired.
"I've found something in my game within the last couple of years. I still have the odd dodgy spell, but it's not as dramatic or as prolonged as it used to be. I have more good days than bad and that means I'm enjoying it, I want to win and I want to perform.
"This is a big tournament, as a kid you watch this one, the World and the UK and you want to do well in them."
As for his opponent tomorrow, O'Sullivan added: "I'm sure he'll be up for it but I've got used to the fact that everyone is up for it against me. I relish the challenge of taking on all-comers. If I start seeing the potting angles then the rest will fall into place."
Maguire said: "I don't feel as if I've been involved in a match. He totally outplayed me. He magnifies your mistakes 100 times because he's so quick and clever around the table."
Ronnie O'Sullivan raced through the last four frames to score a 6-2 victory over Ali Carter and reach the semi-finals of the Masters
Playing with a cue he used for the first time against Joe Perry last Sunday, O'Sullivan struggled in the early stages and looked vulnerable at 2-2. But he clicked into gear and rolled in four consecutive frame-winning breaks to set up a semi-final with Stephen Maguire.
O'Sullivan, who has now beaten Carter 11 times in 11 meetings, is aiming to become the only player other than Stephen Hendry to win the Masters title more than three times, and will take some stopping as he chases the £150,000 top prize.
The first four frames were shared, world No 1 O'Sullivan making breaks of 66 and 90 in frames one and three, but making unforced errors in the other two as seventh seed Carter stayed in touch. But after the interval, Tiptree's Carter could not contain his Essex rival as O'Sullivan compiled runs of 82, 128, 115 and 91.
"I'm surprised that I've been able to get used to the cue, I can play most shots with it and in the balls it's fine," said the World Champion. "But it's still not the one so I'm going to get another one after this tournament. At least when I smash my next one I'll have this as a replacement.
"I want to smash more cues, I love it. I'm going to smash one every three or six months. It's like cleansing, like detox. It gives me the feeling of starting again.
"I'm only playing at 70% and that can be demoralising, although I can win tournaments playing at that level."
As for tomorrow's meeting with Maguire, O'Sullivan added: "I want his nickname, On-Fire Maguire, I love that. I've not watched any snooker this week so I don't know how he's playing and I don't really care. If I play to a decent standard then I should have an impact on the game and maybe end up victorious."
It's been an outstanding day of snooker at Wembley Arena, with seven century breaks in 16 frames, and tomorrow is another fine day in prospect. With John Higgins and Mark Selby also on the bill, four of the world's top five players will be in action. Tickets are still available.
James Gill. Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Barry Hearn has ruled out a return to snooker, saying: “Like an old girlfriend, you shouldn’t go back.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan had pleaded with Hearn to breathe life into the sport he had helped make so popular in the 1980s.
But Hearn, who still promotes two snooker events, has neither the interest nor the inclination to step up his interest in a sport he believes has had its glory days.
“Snooker is like an old girlfriend,” said Hearn. “It’s a long time ago and you shouldn’t go back.”
Hearn, who has had huge success promoting darts, poker and boxing, added: “We were there in the big days when everything was fantastic.
"While we still do certain events we are never going to go back to those dominant days of the 1970s and ’80s when we were ruling the world. What I’m doing with darts now is what I did with snooker in the ’80s.
“When you’ve done it you can’t really go back and do it again.”
O’Sullivan may still ¬capture the public’s imagination, but Hearn believes the same ¬cannot be said for the ailing sport, with no one else able to match the Rocket in terms of talent and charisma.
“It’s glory days are ¬behind it,” he added. “It does solid business, but it’s just not darts. It’s just not something that has captured the imagination of young people that want a night out.
"They want fast action, great atmosphere, a chance to express themselves, and snooker doesn’t lend itself to that.”
He added: “Ronnie is a genius. It must be frustrating for him. If the game was bigger his appreciation and pay-cheques would be so much larger. He’ll look and see the winner of next year’s darts get £200,000.
“The frustration for Ronnie is that in any era he would have been a superstar.
“It’s just wrong time, wrong place.”
Ronnie O'Sullivan, playing with a new cue after snapping his old model two days ago, edged a 6-5 win over Joe Perry in front of 2000 people at the Masters.
Though O'Sullivan was lucky to survive, Perry missing an easy pink when poised to win 6-4, he is surely the only player who could win a match against a top-class opponent when playing with a cue which he had barely even practised with.
"I'd only played with it for an hour," said the Rocket, who goes through to face Ali Carter or Peter Ebdon on Friday evening at 7pm (for tickets call 0844 815 0815 or visit www.wembleyarena.co.uk).
"I got (top cue maker) John Parris to send me seven. I don't like the one I used, it needs a few adjustments. There were certain shots I couldn't play so I'm actually quite relieved and surprised to win.
"I snapped my old one on Friday. It's was quite fun doing it, I really went to town. It felt really good. It wasn't easy to snap it, I wish I'd made a video, I'd put it on YouTube. Then I thought 'was that wise?'," added O'Sullivan, who used that cue to win the World and UK titles and make three 147s last season.
"I still love snooker and I enjoyed the game today. I'm a showman, I don't mind being the centre of attention, I enjoy the pressure and the adrenaline rush."
There was certainly plenty to get the adrenaline flowing for both players as well as the bumper crowd. The first four frames were shared, Perry making breaks of 63 and 85 then O'Sullivan knocking in a 100 in the fourth.
Cambridgeshire's Perry, who has beaten O'Sullivan twice this season including a 9-5 victory in last month's Maplin UK Championship, started frame five with a 63, only for his opponent to clear with 68. Back came Perry with a 105 then Chigwell's O'Sullivan rolled in a 118 to go 4-3 up.
The next two scrappy frames went the way of Perry and he had the match at his mercy in frame ten, leading 48-25 with the balls well placed. But he failed to convert a pink off its spot and O'Sullivan produced a cool 40 clearance.
The deciding frame was a tense affair lasting 38 minutes. O'Sullivan took control with a 42 then edged towards the winning line, helped by two unfortunate in-offs from Perry. And when O'Sullivan knocked in the final green he boosted his hopes of a fourth Masters title.
Perry said: "It's a shame that I have to take a negative away with me because it was a great game to be involved in. I played some good stuff, it's just a shame that the match will be remembered for the pink.
"I don't freeze against him any more, I knew that if I played well I could compete against him. I wasn't terribly happy with the way I was playing coming into the tournament, but I played much better than I thought I was going to.
"I don't like to talk about luck, I had my chances and missed them. There's no two ways about it."
Venue: Wembley Arena, London Date: Sunday 11 - Sunday 18 January
Coverage: BBC Television, BBC Red Button and BBC Sport website
World snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has called on X Factor judge Simon Cowell to revitalise the game.
O'Sullivan's frustration at what he believes is a "dying" sport was shown after he narrowly beat Joe Perry 6-5 in the opening round of the Masters.
"I feel like I'm in a sport that has had its good days and is on a downward spiral," he said at Wembley Arena.
"It needs someone with entrepreneurial skills like Simon Cowell who is in the modern world and more dynamic."
Cowell is one of the most powerful figures in the music business, thanks largely due to the success of the X-Factor television show.
O'Sullivan suggested promoter Barry Hearn, the manager of former world champion Steve Davis, could also help revamp the sport.
"If someone like Barry Hearn came in and took over the game and started doing with snooker what he has done with darts and made it interesting and lively that might make coming to tournaments and [my] enthusiasm to play a little bit different," said O'Sullivan.
Arguably the most talented player in the history of the sport, O'Sullivan has frequently voiced his frustrations with the way snooker is run and has often talked of quitting.
Last year in a BBC interview the world number one said he lacked the passion and drive for the game to go on and equal Stephen Hendry's record of seven world titles.
The 33-year-old, who won his third World title last year, deliberately snapped his cue "for fun" before his clash with Perry and admitted he is struggling for motivation.
"It's quite uninspiring coming to tournaments," said O'Sullivan, nicknamed the "The Rocket".
"I still enjoy playing but sometimes I wonder do I want to go to Ireland for 30 grand or go to China for 40 grand or Bahrain and there are two people in the crowd.
"I remember the good days when it was fun going to tournaments and now it doesn't feel like fun.
"The people who are running snooker seem to be going backwards. Nothing seems to be happening and it just feels boring and the sport is dying.
"There are little rules brought in like penalising players for conceding when you don't need snookers.
"You can't help thinking that whoever is making these decisions are killing the sport and stopping the entertainment.
"I love the game and I'm in great shape physically and mentally, but I've got to the stage where I don't really care if I play or not.
"I don't want to go through the rest of my life like that so I've got to make a decision on what I want to do."
Ricky Walden has been handed a wild card entry to snooker's top invitation event, The Masters.
The 26-year-old from Flintshire will make his debut in the tournament against Mark King on Sunday January 11 at 7pm. The Masters runs from January 11 to 18 at Wembley Arena.
Walden won his first ranking title at the Roewe Shanghai Masters in October, beating Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-8 in the final. He is officially ranked 35 in the world, but his landmark success in the Far East has helped him leap to 18th in the provisional standings.
"I'm delighted to get the wild card," said Walden, whose
Bagillt home is in North Wales, though he considers himself English. "I always thought I'd have to get into the top 16 before I played in the Masters, so to get in now is fantastic as it's a massive tournament. This makes winning the tournament in Shanghai even more special.
"I've never played at the Crucible or Wembley and I want to be on the big stage with the top players and showing people what I can do."
Walden is currently on holiday in Las Vegas, but has been following the action at the Maplin UK Championship in Telford, particularly the progress of Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens and Stephen Lee, who all reached the last 16 but failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals.
"I knew that if one of them won it, they'd have a good chance of getting the wild card," added Walden, who has never played King before in a professional tournament. "I can enjoy the rest of my holiday now.
"I've got a lot of pals in London so it will be a dream to play there and I'll be giving it everything."
Judd Trump, who earned the other wild card by winning last month's qualifying tournament, will play Mark Allen on Monday January 12 at 11am.
For tickets 0844 815 0815 or visit www.wembleyarena.co.uk
World Snooker Academy, English Institute of Sport, Sheffield
Friday 21 November 2008
Match 1 – Rory McLeod v Paul S Davison - 4-3
Match 2 – Ricky Walden v Stefan Mazrocis - 4-2
Match 3 – Anthony Hamilton v Andrew Pagett - 4-0
Match 4 – Liang Wenbo v Liu Chuang - 4-1
Match 5 – Jimmy Michie v Daniel Wells - 0-4
Match 6 – Barry Pinches v Lewis Roberts - 3-4
Match 7 – Andrew Higginson v Chris McBreen - 4-0
Match 8 – Gerard Greene v Michael Georgiou - 4-0
Match 9 – Stephen Lee v Simon Bedford - 2-4
Match 10 – Barry Hawkins v Wayne Cooper - 4-3
Match 11 – Mark Joyce v Peter Lines - 4-0
Match 12 – David Roe v Kuldesh Johal - 3-4
Saturday 22 November 2008
Match 13 – Stuart Pettman v David Grace - Pettman withdrawal
Match 14 – Judd Trump v Matthew Couch - 4-0
Match 15 – Dave Harold v Supoj Saenla - 4-1
Match 16 – Martin Gould v Li Hang - 4-3
Match 17 – Andrew Norman v Jamie Jones - 4-1
Match 18 – Rod Lawler v Jin Long - 3-4
Match 19 – Andy Hicks v Jimmy White - 4-2
Match 20 – David Gray v Matthew Selt - 4-3
Match 21 – Robert Milkins v Andy Lee - 4-1
Match 22 – David Gilbert v Stephen Craigie - 2-4
Match 23 – Michael Holt v Atthasit Mahitthi - 3-4
Sunday 23 November 2008
Match 24 – Matthew Stevens v Rory McLeod - 5-3
Match 25 – Ricky Walden v Anthony Hamilton - 5-1
Match 26 – Liang Wenbo v Daniel Wells - 4-5
Match 27 – Fergal O’Brien v Lewis Roberts - 5-3
Match 28 – Mark Williams v Andrew Higginson - 1-5
Match 29 – Gerard Greene v Simon Bedford - 5-1
Match 30 – Barry Hawkins v Mark Joyce - 0-5
Match 31 – Joe Swail v Kuldesh Johal - 3-5
Match 32 – Jamie Cope v David Grace - 5-3
Match 33 – Judd Trump v Dave Harold - 5-3
Match 34 – Martin Gould v Andrew Norman - 5-1
Match 35 – Nigel Bond v Jin Long - 4-5
Match 36 – Stuart Bingham v Andy Hicks - 5-4
Match 37 – David Gray v Robert Milkins - 5-3
Match 38 – Ian McCulloch v Stephen Craigie - 5-3
Match 39 – Ken Doherty v Atthasit Mahitthi - 5-4
Monday 24 November 2008
Match 40 – Matthew Stevens v Ricky Walden - 5-2
Match 41 – Daniel Wells v Fergal O'Brien - 4-5
Match 42 – Andrew Higginson v Gerard Greene - 5-2
Match 43 – Mark Joyce v Kuldesh Johal - 5-4
Match 44 – Jamie Cope v Judd Trump - 2-5
Match 45 – Martin Gould v Jin Long - 4-5
Match 46 – Stuart Bingham v David Gray - 5-2
Match 47 – Ian McCulloch v Ken Doherty - 3-5
Tuesday 25 November 2008
QF1 – Matthew Stevens v Fergal O'Brien - 5-3
QF2 – Andrew Higginson v Mark Joyce - 4-5
QF3 – Judd Trump v Jin Long - 5-1
QF4 – Stuart Bingham v Ken Doherty - 1-5
SF1 – Matthew Stevens v Mark Joyce - 4-5
SF2 – Judd Trump v Ken Doherty - 5-2
Wednesday 26 November 2008
Final - Mark Joyce v Judd Trump - 1-6
Matches 1-23 will be played for best of 7, next matches up to and including semifinal matches will be played for best of 9 and final will be played for best of 11 frames.