Snooker star returns to China: Ronnie O’Sullivan plays Salieri instead of Mozart

DThe term “parlor” would probably be a bit of an exaggeration for a place that is 9,200 kilometers as the crow flies from his snooker club in Suffolk. But Ronnie O’Sullivan seems to like something about Shanghai. When the Masters of the World Elite Main Tour take place in the southern Chinese metropolis, there is a billiard cracker who otherwise doesn’t like to travel – be it a ranking tournament or, as was the case last week, just a high-profile tournament. prize invitational tournament. And since 2017, the seven-time world champion knows how to prevent his opponent from winning in the end, simply by winning every match there.

However, O’Sullivan’s regiment appears to be longer than it actually is, as the People’s Republic of China has refrained from hosting tournaments of this type during the three Crown Years (2020-22). However, late on Sunday China time, it was extended to a 19th win in 19 games since 2017 and a fifth triumph overall, the last four of them in a row. Only this time it had less to do with a somnambulistic, safe style of play and more to do with hard work and incredible resilience. Because when an artist as brilliantly gifted as O’Sullivan doesn’t play at his best, he also has to work hard. So he has to be Salieri, not Mozart, in order to somehow stay at the green table.

Small, sometimes egregious mistakes

This time on the Big Stage of this spacious indoor arena with a capacity of up to 14,500 spectators, there was probably no match in which the reigning champion could be satisfied. Time and time again, small, sometimes glaring errors in positional and match play slowed his play at the green table when he seemed to be gaining momentum. So you saw him with an unusually grim expression, although never giving up against famous opponents, whom he eventually defeated with a sudden increase in form: four winning frames (games) in a row, and the quarter-final against John Higgins was 2:5 to 6 :5 rotated; four more winning frames in a row, and Mark Selby was eliminated in the semi-finals with a score of 10:7.

These were not successes that were obvious early on, even for him. In fact, he searched in vain for better form for a year and a half, the 47-year-old Briton said even between games. And a strange wish was added: In fact, a defeat in which he still feels comfortable in his own skin is more valuable to him at this stage than any victory that makes him feel uncomfortable. But on Sunday, in the final against Luca Brecel, he was not redeemed in that sense. At the end of a high-quality but equally volatile contest that ended 11-9, another “stupid” victory slipped out.

In the prestigious fight between number one (O’Sullivan) and number two in the world rankings, the Belgian, who was 19 years younger, represented the big man at the table. On the other hand, O’Sullivan, also known as “The Rocket”, often scored from smaller margins when it was crucial. On the one hand, this provided him with a prize fund of about 244,000 euros, and on the other hand, it stifled sensitive debate. Otherwise, many would have been talking about an inevitable generational change in the noble sport – after the “Belgian Bullet” managed to knock the industry’s “top dog” out of the World Championship tournament in the quarter-finals in Sheffield in May.

To still be there in a prominent position: perhaps this is the real fun these days for a well-known professional who supposedly no longer feels any joy in the game. When a Shanghai bank official handed him an enlarged copy of the check, he grinned mischievously at the television camera, as if he had just played a prank. How truthful are the self-reports about his internal state, and how much is a strange form of coquetry, will probably never be clarified. But who expected this from the notorious riddle?

Perhaps Luca Brecel, with his aggressive play, can become the next professional to set the tone on the Main Tour for the foreseeable future, similar to what Judd Trump managed to do at times many years ago. But O’Sullivan remains the biggest factor and that’s not the worst news for the World Snooker Tour at the start of a young snooker season. The global premium series doesn’t want to give up on the potential of the Chinese TV market. To do that, familiar faces are needed, including as replacements for local contenders, many of whom were disqualified earlier in the year for match-fixing to cheat bets. Shanghai obviously needs Ronnie O’Sullivan as much as Ronnie O’Sullivan needs Shanghai.

Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine

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