Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Ali Carter to claim record-extending eighth Masters title

Ronnie O'Sulivan celebrates victory with his children
This is Ronnie O'Sulivan's 23rd snooker 'triple crown' win - Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Wearing trainers and what he has called his scruffiest shirt and trousers, Ronnie O’Sullivan was not exactly dressed for the coronation that would inevitably arrive inside the palace.

No matter. After a week in which snooker’s undisputed king took aim at the cleanliness of the 159-year-old Alexandra Palace, O’Sullivan was still most precise when it mattered at the table to win a record eighth Masters title.

In front of an ecstatic 2,000 crowd, which included England forward James Maddison, as well as his mum Maria and children Ronnie Jr and Lily, O’Sullivan overcame both the heel injury that had prompted a change of footwear and a 6-3 final deficit to prevail 10-7 over Ali Carter.

James Maddison watches the final at Alexandra Palace
James Maddison watches the final at Alexandra Palace - Justin Tallis/AFP

It was actually far from vintage O’Sullivan but still a truly extraordinary achievement which means that he is now the oldest as well as youngest winner of snooker’s Masters and, at 48, also the oldest winner of all three of the sport’s majors.

“I’ve had an amazing career – I’ve always come to try and master this game – I’ve yet to, but I’ll keep trying,” said O’Sullivan. “The crowd have always been good to me. That’s the one thing I take from my career, and I’ll keep trying until I can’t pot any more balls.”

A 23rd snooker ‘triple crown’ win also further extends another record and means that O’Sullivan will go into the World Championships in April with the chance to join only Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams in winning a grand slam of snooker majors in one season.

Davis, who regards O’Sullivan as the best sportsperson in Britain today, described this latest feat as simply “astonishing” and reckons that he is still improving. “He doesn’t think it – probably doesn’t even know it,” said Davis.

‘He’s going to have to scrape me off the table’

Against Carter, who had displayed better form in reaching the final by beating Williams, Judd Trump and Mark Allen over the previous week, O’Sullivan had found himself trailing for most of the day.

Nicknamed ‘The Captain’ because he has a pilot’s licence, Carter has twice previously lost to O’Sullivan in the World Championships final but followed up an excellent afternoon session by winning the first frame of the evening to lead by three at 6-3.

It seemed to spark O’Sullivan who promptly demonstrated that still frightening ability to reel off a flurry of frames. With barely a mistake from Carter, it was very suddenly 6-6 in the space of just 37 match-changing minutes. Most noticeable about this sequence was less the fluent potting and break-building but a shot selection which suggested that winning would now take precedence for O’Sullivan over his earlier ultra-aggressive approach.

Ali Carter lines up a pot
Ali Carter lines up a pot - Justin Tallis/AFP

“I just thought, ‘Try and keep Ali honest and, if he’s going to win it, he is going to have to scrape me off the table’,” said O’Sullivan, adding that, “I just wanted to see if he had it at the end.”

It was a blunt but telling observation of an opponent who, at 44, had been producing some of the best snooker of his career but has never previously won a snooker major.

And Carter did briefly respond with another century – his third of the final and a record-breaking ninth in one Masters tournament – to go back into the lead at 7-6. There then followed two pivotal frames, in which both players missed inviting chances, before each was taken by O’Sullivan.

As the clocks ticked past 9.30pm, it all meant that O’Sullivan was back in front for the first time since the opening frame of a contest that had begun at 1pm. Another miss by Carter was then ruthlessly punished with break of 89 before a streak of seven out of eight frames was completed when O’Sullivan exploited further mistakes to clinch the £250,000 first prize.

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