snooker: O'Sullivan wins in style

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The Independent Online
Ronnie O'Sullivan underlined his potential by capturing the Benson and Hedges Masters title at Wembley last night, beating John Higgins 9-3.

O'Sullivan, who only joined the professional ranks in 1992, became the youngest winner since the Masters first joined the snooker calendar back in 1975.

"I'm delighted with what I've achieved, but I'm still not happy with my game," said O'Sullivan afterwards. "I hope people don't get offended with what I say, but I'm still searching for the missing part, and when it arrives I think I can win tournament after tournament."

O'Sullivan, who beat John Parrott, Terry Griffiths and Peter Ebdon on the way to meeting Higgins, did not enjoy a good start. Higgins, the only wild-card entry in the history of the Masters to reach the final, won the opening frame with a brown to pink clearance, after a completely misjudged safety shot by O'Sullivan.

Higgins was well on his way to taking a 2-0 lead when, 50-16 ahead in the second frame, he missed a relatively straightforward red to a middle pocket. O'Sullivan then fired a 47 clearance, after which he was unstoppable.

"That was the turning point as far as I was concerned," said Higgins. "Ronnie got stronger and I got weaker. I'm disappointed with my performance, but I couldn't settle into the match. He wins frames so quickly."

From 1-1, O'Sullivan embarked on a purple patch, in which he chalked up breaks of 68, 53 and 82 to establish a commanding 5-2 lead at the end of the first session. when play re-started, the former world junior champion forged 7-2 ahead in only 19 minutes with contributions of 55, 41 and 46.

Higgins briefly threatened to mount a fightback when he knocked in a 91 break - the highest of the final - to win frame 10. But O'Sullivan was not to be denied, as he completed victory in fine style with runs of 33, 34 and 57 in the next two frames.

Benson and Hedges Masters, (Wembley) Final: R O'Sullivan (Eng) bt J Higgins (Sco) 9-3. Frame scores (O'Sullivan first): 52-64, 63-50, 74-9, 67-5, 65-36, 82-0, 4-117, 82-0, 88-7, 0-91, 84-47, 73-19.