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O’Sullivan denies Ding to seal eighth UK Championship title

Jonathan Davies in UK Championship

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Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui live stream | UK Championship 2023 Final preview

O’Sullivan beat Ding 10-7 in York (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Ronnie O’Sullivan captured his record-extending eighth UK Championship title after defeating Ding Junhui 10-7 in a thrilling final on Sunday.

The Rocket, who led his friendly rival 4-1 at the York Barbican Centre, was pegged back to 7-7, but reeled off the last three frames with breaks of 129, 100 and 74 to get over the line

O’Sullivan announced himself to the world at this event 30 years ago, beating Stephen Hendry 10-6 in the final to become its youngest winner at just 17 years old.

Fast forward three decades and the 47-year-old became the tournament’s oldest ever winner as he landed his 40th ranking title – and 22nd success in a Triple Crown event.

“Each tournament I play in and win, I get great pleasure out of,” he told BBC.

“I’ve played great all season. The two tournaments that I’ve won, I’ve probably not played my best stuff. It just shows you what a strange game this is.

“Tonight, I just had to come out and have a good head. I thought if I’m going to lose, to make Ding earn it. I came out here, gave it my all and I just love competing.

“I always keep beating myself up because of the age thing. I keep thinking at some point, I’ve got to stop winning. But I keep doing all right, so I’ll keep going until the wheels fall off!”

Appearing in his ninth UK final, O’Sullivan drew first blood with a break of 71 before a sublime 71 clearance – including a brilliant double on the final red – snatched frame two on the black after Ding had broken down on 63 when missing a pink to the right centre.

The Dragon, who was appearing in his second successive UK final and fifth overall, was in first again in frame three. However, he failed to capitalise again and a run of just 38 was countered by O’Sullivan’s wonderful clearance of 91.

But Ding did stop the rot with 89 in the next frame and although he lost a tight fifth on the pink, the three-time champion reeled off the next three frames with breaks of 114 and 70 squaring things at 4-4 at the end of the afternoon.

The first two frames of the evening were shared, before runs of 40, 87 and 79 moved O’Sullivan 7-5 ahead at the mid-session interval.

Ding, who has returned to the world’s top 16 following another impressive showing in York, responded again at the restart with contributions of 52 and 104 making it 7-7.

However, he was helpless after breaking off in the next frame; O’Sullivan crunching in a stunning long red that paved the way for a 100 to edge his nose back in front.

And the Rocket was not to be denied. A run of 74 moved him to the brink of victory, which he secured with a superb 129 to become the first player to win the same ranking event on eight occasions.

Paying tribute to Ding, O’Sullivan said: “He’s played fantastic all week, I’ve been watching his games. His cue-ball control is the best ever, he’s just never out of position – it’s like watching on a computer.

“It’s a pleasure to play Ding, he’s such a good man. He was a boy when we first started playing, but he’s a man now and he’s a father.

“He’s a credit to China. I call him the Godfather of Chinese snooker because he paved the way for everybody else. He’s a massive inspiration to all the snooker players. I’m a massive fan of Ding, it’s an honour to play him in a final.”

Runner-up Ding added: “It’s a very, very good week. I knew it was going to be very tough tonight.

“I missed a couple of shots to win frames in the first session. It’s a hard match. 4-4 [heading into the evening session] is not too bad, but he played better tonight.”