We continue to celebrate the 10th staging of the Masters at Alexandra Palace by reliving Ronnie O’Sullivan’s five most memorable moments under the glass ceiling in N22.
As with the other Triple Crowns, the Rocket has become synonymous with snooker’s most prestigious invitational event.
He is now the most successful player in Masters history, having lifted the trophy on seven occasions – and three times since the tournament moved to Alexandra Palace in 2012.
Let’s recap some of his most memorable moments at this event from the past decade.
‘Snooker from the Gods’ – 2014
Due to his self-imposed sabbatical, O’Sullivan was absent from the previous year’s Masters, but returned with a bang to claim his fifth crown.
The Rocket dropped just seven frames along the way as Robert Milkins, Ricky Walden, Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby were all put to the sword.
But the highlight of the week was his performance against Walden in the quarter-finals, with John Parrott describing it as “snooker from the Gods.”
Indeed, O’Sullivan scored a record 556 unanswered points as he wrapped up a comprehensive 6-0 whitewash in just 58 minutes.
‘Happy birthday, Stephen!’ – 2015
Walden must have been sick of the sight of O’Sullivan by the time they were drawn to face each other in the 2015 first round.
This time, a much closer contest ensued with the three-time ranking event winner holding his own to trail 5-4.
But the Rocket – needing one more century to equal Stephen Hendry’s all-time record of 775 on the seven-time World champion’s 46th birthday – saved his best until last.
With frame and match in the bag as he got to 89, O’Sullivan required a miracle to keep the break going by potting the yellow, which was tied up by the brown on the baulk cushion.
As a hopeful John Virgo reminded viewers that ‘there’s six pockets on the table,’ you could not make up the subsequent chain of events…
That 73 clearance against Selby – 2016
O’Sullivan and Selby have contested three Masters finals over the years, with the Rocket prevailing in 2009 and 2014.
Although in the latter year, the Jester would exact his revenge at the Crucible; recovering from 8-3 and 10-7 down to prevail 18-14 and land a maiden World crown.
Just under two years later, O’Sullivan must have feared the worst in their Masters quarter-final with Selby well on course to cut his deficit to 5-4 at 70-0 up in frame nine with 75 points remaining.
However, the world number one failed with an attempted cannon into the cluster of reds and, following a brief safety exchange, left his opponent a sniff of an opportunity at a long red that may pave the way for a potential steal.
That was all the Rocket needed…
That red against Bingham – 2016
O’Sullivan marched onto that year’s semi-finals to face World champion Stuart Bingham, who had defeated the Rocket 13-9 in the Crucible quarter-finals nine months earlier.
As was the case against Selby, the five-time champion established a 5-3 lead, but was in danger of seeing his advantage reduced to a single frame.
Ballrun was 61-29 to the good and required one more ball to make it 5-4 when he missed an ambitious attempt at a double on the final red.
With the cue ball near the top cushion, good distance from the red and the black leaving little room for manoeuvre, Bingham would be forgiven for being satisfied with that outcome.
His opponent had other ideas on the way to capturing a sixth title…
The magnificent seventh title – 2017
Returning to Ally Pally as defending champion, O’Sullivan was bidding for a record-breaking seventh Masters crown that would see him surpass Hendry.
The Rocket was given an almighty fright as Liang Wenbo missed match-ball black at 5-4 up in the opening round, before going on to beat Neil Robertson and Marco Fu.
Although, he was far from his best and the run did not go without incident. Indeed, he appeared to endure ongoing difficulties with his tip, before criticising a photographer following his semi-final win over Fu.
Despite trailing 4-1 early on in the final against Joe Perry, O’Sullivan took command by winning seven successive frames to move 8-4 ahead.
Perry reduced the arrears to 9-7, but the Rocket – still unhappy with his tip – eventually sealed the deal to claim that magnificent seventh title.