O'Sullivan races to maximum 147

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan showed why he is regarded as snooker's greatest entertainer by sprinting to a lucrative 147 break at LG Cup here yesterday. The world champion highlighted his 5-1 victory over Drew Henry with a maximum in the third frame as he became the first player into the quarter-finals. O'Sullivan, who punched the air in delight when the final black dropped, receives a £20,000 bonus, with the £7,500 for the highest break of the tournament awaiting collection as well.

O'Sullivan was at the table for 6 minutes 36 seconds, making it the second quickest 147 on record. "Money's not important to me," he said. "I don't play the game for the money. I play it for the buzz and the enjoyment and that kind of thing really gives you a buzz.

"It's got to be one of the hardest I've made. I was nervous when I made my first 147 and I was nervous out there today. It's a great achievement, like a nine-darter, and of course you're going to get tense.

"Stephen Hendry used to make 147s for fun. He raised the bar, like Tiger Woods has in golf, and now, if you get a chance, you go for it. Potting balls around the black is what you do all the time and you get proficient at it."

Only the first of O'Sullivan's five maximums in professional competition – his first arrived at the 1997 Embassy World Championship – was swifter. On that occasion he took 5min 20sec. He has now made the four fastest 147s. His perfect run during last year's Regal Scottish Open lasted 6min 40sec, and his maximum at the 1999 Regal Welsh Open took eleven seconds longer than that.

O'Sullivan's control of the cue ball was magnificent. After only a handful of reds had been sunk it was clear he had a realistic chance and he only surrendered ideal position twice. He was forced to pot the green using the rest, and after potting the blue he cut the pink to a middle pocket and dropped perfectly on the black. A few seconds later the sizeable Guild Hall crowd gave O'Sullivan a standing ovation.

O'Sullivan, who at the age of 15 knocked in a 147 break during the 1991 English Amateur Championship, could not disguise his delight. This was the 43rd maximum in professional competition, the 21st caught by television cameras and the 24th in a world-ranking tournament. Only Hendry, with eight 147s, has constructed more than O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan believes it is only a matter of time before someone compiles two maximums in the same tournament. "I think it will definitely happen. The sponsors should put up a special prize. That would be really interesting."

While the match will inevitably be remembered for its third frame – the maximum was the fifth at the Guild Hall – O'Sullivan was in top gear from the outset.

Breaks of 75 and 78 saw him cruise through the opening two frames, his 147 followed in the third, and he stole the fourth on the black with a 38 clearance .

Stephen Henry, the second-round conqueror of Jimmy White, avoided the whitewash but O'Sullivan fluked the green in frame six to complete a 90-minute win.

Hendry bounced back from his poor form to beat Mark Davis 5-1 to reach the last 16. A fortnight ago Hendry described his form as "disgraceful," after losing 5-1 to Anthony Davies in his opening match at the British Open.

But continued consultations with another former world champion, Terry Griffiths, who has recently struck up a coaching partnership with Hendry, paid rich dividends on the Scot's return to competition.

"It was obviously night and day compared with how I played at the British Open," admitted the 32-year-old, who has gone two years since adding to his record total of 32 world-ranking event victories.

"The level of my performance was so much better and that applies to my attitude as well. I've been working hard with Terry on a lot of things, on and off the table, and I'm sure it will pay off."