Sport on TV: Cue Ronnie, conducting his music of the spheres

Chris Maume
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:51

"Ronnie O'Sullivan on a roll is one of the finest sights in sport. Discuss."

There's nothing to discuss. He just is. There you go, discussed in three words. Last Sunday and Monday's World Championship snooker final (BBC 2) wasn't a classic – too many loose shots, not enough oomph from the Rocket's hapless oppo, Ali Carter – but even if he's only firing on a few of his available cylinders, O'Sullivan is still magnificent to behold.

It's as much the way he moves as how he plays. It's not a swagger; he's not full of himself, not trying to psych out his opponent – it just happens that way. He's not out to intimidate; he's just a boy lost in the music of those coloured spheres over which he exhibits such dazzling control.

He's completely in his element, a shark – a shark with a cue, as Alan Partridge might observe – slicing through the water without malice but with deadly intent. His movements are crisp, sharp and economical, with a sense of purpose that is signalled on his face not by grim intensity but by the look of a man at peace with himself and his talents. He might have demons, but when he takes wing they are more like angels.

In the final, even when he handed back the initiative, briefly, to Carter after missing a difficult brown, he walked back to his seat with the air of a man thinking, "I'll be back". After another loose shot shortly after that, he looked not deflated but just puzzled: "How did that not go in? Weird."

Carter looked pensive, like a man on the morning of his execution. When he missed an easy blue in what turned out to be the final frame he walked back to his seat stooping slightly and lowered himself into it as if he'd suddenly aged 40 years. Soon it was over, and Ray Stubbs was asking O'Sullivan what he thought of Steve Davis putting him ahead of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer in the legend department.

"He's mad," Ronnie laughed. "People say I'm mad, but he must be."

He was seen to better effect in his stupendous semi-final against Stephen Hendry, and against Mark Williams, when he became the game's record 147-man (watch it on YouTube).

He was a joy to watch, bold and businesslike. He needed to split the last red and the pink, but it hardly looked on.

"He's tried it," Dennis Taylor said with an air of disbelief, before erupting. "What a shot! That is one of the best positional shots I've ever seen!"

At the end Taylor was ecstatic, genuinely marvelling at what he'd just witnessed.

"It just doesn't get any better than that!" he roared. "The man is a total genius!"

No arguments on that score.

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