O'Sullivan Retains Welsh Open
Ronnie O'Sullivan won a nail-biting final for the second year in a row to successfully defend the Welsh Open title in Newport.
O'Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry 9-8 to pocket the £35,000 first prize 12 months after edging Steve Davis by the same score.
Hendry, three times a winner of the Welsh event, twice led by two frames but O'Sullivan produced an excellent break of 67 in the decider to land his second trophy of the season, having won the totesport Grand Prix in October.
'To do it against Stephen is even more pleasing than last year because he's a great front runner,' said O'Sullivan, who fought back from 7-5 down.
'Even at 8-7 up I kept telling myself that a wounded animal is a dangerous creature. But I made a good break in the last.
'I didn't feel confident of potting them because my cueing was really poor but it was satisfying to get a win.
'To be honest, I didn't expect to take the title because I wasn't playing as well as I thought I'd have to.
'But my 'bad' game is a lot better these days than it once was, which is why I've managed to win two of the four tournaments this season.'
Hendry built a 3-1 lead, highlighted by a magnificent 140 total clearance in the fourth frame.
But O'Sullivan crucially won a tight fifth frame to stop the Scot running away with the final.
A 59 clearance forced a re-spotted black and, after seven shots each, O'Sullivan potted it from distance.
O'Sullivan moved 4-3 ahead and was set to extend his winning streak to four frames in the last of the afternoon session but, leading by 40, missed a red playing left-handed and a grateful Hendry stopped the rot as he again drew level by fashioning a 69 clearance.
Hendry continued with a run of 93 when the match restarted before O'Sullivan made it 5-5 through an effort of 102.
A huge slice of luck helped Hendry make it 6-5 when he fluked the last red out of a snooker and cleared to the brown.
He made 57 early on in the last before the interval and got back in to take a two frame lead at 7-5.
O'Sullivan cancelled this out through efforts of 75 and 52 and then hit the front again as a superb 131, his 10th century of the event, gave him an 8-7 advantage.
But Hendry ensured the final would go the full distance by taking the next to make it 8-8.
Both black and pink were tied up early in the decider, but O'Sullivan carefully crafted his winning run of 67 taking lower value colours to secure the 17th ranking title of his career.
The 29-year-old also extends his lead at the top of the provisional rankings to over 11,000 points.
'Stephen is always the man to measure your game against,' O'Sullivan said.
'He's missing a few long balls now but when his back's against the wall he looks really dangerous.
'Had he sustained his form in the first session he could have taken a 6-2 lead but he started missing a few and the game changed.'
Hendry, who collected £17,500 as runner-up, was looking for his first ranking title since capturing the British Open in November 2003.
'From 7-5 up I didn't see a ball for ages,' he said. 'Ronnie played really well after the interval. I didn't play as well as in my earlier matches, possibly because I haven't been in a final for over a year.
'I wasn't as comfortable as in earlier rounds. I still thought I'd take my chance if I got one on the decider, but I didn't get one.'
Sporting Life - 24/1/2005