Ronnie O'Sullivan becomes snooker's greatest Master of all time with final win over Joe Perry
Ronnie O'Sullivan swept to a record seventh Masters title at Alexandra Palace with a 10-7 win over fellow Englishman Joe Perry.
O'Sullivan lifted the first of his seven Masters in 1995 and has progressed to claim an incredible six more over the following 22 years at the sport's most prestigious invitational event, emerging triumphant in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and now 2017.
He has claimed two world titles fewer than the retired Scotsman Stephen Hendry, but moves one clear of his haul of six Masters. Hendry collected the last of his six here in 1996.
O'Sullivan bit the tip of his cue at the end of the match after being forced to replace it during his 6-4 win over Marco Fu in the semi-finals on Saturday.
England's Ronnie O'Sullivan (L) chalks his cue as he play against England's Joe Perry (R) during the final of the Masters snooker tournament at Alexandra PalaceAFP
"I got lucky today, I stole that. Joe is going to come again and win tournaments," said O'Sullivan. "He is a tough competitor. I've had a great week.
"This whole week has been a mental test, and not just for snooker reasons with the tip...this is probably the best win of my career because I've had to hang in there under extreme pressure. "
The Masters trophy has been named after three-times Masters winner Paul Hunter, who tragically lost his fight against cancer at the age of 27 in 2006.
Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Masters.Eurosport
"A player of Paul's stature deserves this tournament to be named after him," said O'Sullivan. "He is there in our hearts and our minds. We all love you."
At 41, O'Sullivan has won 17 major titles; Five worlds, five UK and seven Masters as he perhaps takes another step towards his legacy as the sport's greatest player. He collects his first title of the season, and £200,000 in prize money.
Watched by former Labour leader Ed Miliband, O'Sullivan enjoyed the fruits of his labour without ever catching fire in the final.
The feeling that Perry missed the boat in the afternoon session after seeing O'Sullivan level at 4-4 from trailing 4-1 was given credence when the game's great entertainer picked up the first four frames of the evening session.
"I lost my way at 4-1, and I didn't start playing again until I was 8-4 behind," said Perry, who remains without a win against O'Sullivan since 2008, only his second win in 16 career meetings against him. "I had my chances, but fair play to Ronnie.
"I'm disappointed as Ronnie wasn't at his best today, but it has been a great experience reaching the final."
Ronnie O'Sullivan on his way to winning the Masters at Alexandra Palace. Tai Chengzhe/World Snooker.Eurosport
Runs of 55, 68, 56 and 85 in the opening four frames of the night saw O'Sullivan move 8-4 clear in a devastating seven-frame burst that knocked the wind out of Perry.
The ninth seed held up O'Sullivan's coronation before 2,000 typically animated fans at the London venue with breaks of 117 and 92, but missing a red early in the 15th frame enabled the defending champion to quickly run in 112 for a 9-6 advantage.
Perry contributed 53 to extend the final to a 17th frame, but O'Sullivan won a safety battle to complete the victory.
England's Ronnie O'Sullivan poses with the Paul Hunter Trophy after beating England's Joe Perry in the final to win the Masters snooker tournament at Alexandra Palace in London, on January 22, 2017.AFP
Perry was appearing in the biggest match of his life, 26 years after he turned professional in 1991, but he could not compete another great escape act having somehow managed to usurp Barry Hawkins 6-5 in the semi-finals after needing a snooker and trailing 5-2.
His consolation is £90,000 for finishing runner up, earned by overcoming Stuart Bingham (6-1), Ding Junhui (6-1) and his close friend Hawkins (6-5).
Desmond Kane at Alexandra Palace
Ronnie O'Sullivan (England) 10-7 Joe Perry (England)
24-79 (72), 16-101 (53), 86-27 (59), 31-90 (74), 0-115 (115), 67-40, 61-21, 81-23 (55), 51-14, 124-4 (68 & 56), 67-12, 108-15 (85), 1-117 (117), 1-92 (92), 0-130 (112), 1-106 (53), 59-39
Afternoon session: O'Sullivan fights back to level final after Joe Perry makes flying start
Ronnie O'Sullivan won the final three frames of the first session of the Masters final to draw level with Joe Perry at 4-4 after the six-times champion had trailed 4-1 at Alexandra Palace.
O'Sullivan, who has not lost to his final opponent since 2008, was struggling to find his range early on as breaks of 72 and 53 helped Perry claim the opening two frames despite needing several attempts to stagger over the winning line.
A 59 from O'Sullivan in frame three helped him claim his first frame of the final, but Perry - playing in his biggest match in his 26-year career as a professional - headed to the mid-session interval with a 3-1 lead courtesy of a fine 74 in the fourth frame.
A lovely 115 from Perry in the fifth frame was good enough to carry him into a 4-1 advantage, but O'Sullivan has cut a resilient character this week and dragged himself level at 4-4 by winning the next three frames with some solid if unspectacular snooker.
Perry had the chance to counter attack in the final frame of the session after O'Sullivan had broke down on 55, but missing a black off the spot proved crucial as he developed the final red while missing black enabling the five-times world champion O'Sullivan to clear to black in levelling the final at 4-4.
It is slightly astonishing that O'Sullivan has won four frames while making only two breaks over 50 so far, a fact that could return to haunt Perry when they return at 7pm on Sunday with another 11 frames possible.
The first man to 10 claims the title and a cheque for £200,000 with O'Sullivan still a warm favourite to win a seventh Masters, a victory that would take him one frame clear of Stephen Hendry as the most successful champion in the invitational event's history.
Ronnie O'Sullivan (England) 4-4 Joe Perry (England)
24-79 (72), 16-101 (53), 86-27 (59), 31-90 (74), 0-115 (115), 67-40, 61-21, 81-23 (55)