Instant Classic

Ronnie O'Sullivan's 1000th Century - Instant Classic

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With compelling victories over Barry Hawkins, John Higgins, Mark Allen and Neil Robertson, who would have thought that winning the Players Championship 2019 would be the secondary highlight the night of the final.

The Coral Cup will always be one of my favourite sets of tournaments because of the competition it encourages and this year’s Players Championship was no different. Despite the solid contesting throughout the event, make no mistake; it was all about the final. More specifically, the final frame.

O’Sullivan was on 997 centuries before the start of the final and made 2 centuries in the match to build a comfortable 7-2 lead against Robertson. Once the scoreboard got to 9-4, O’Sullivan potted a sweet first red into the left centre which initiated the infamous 1000th century break. And I don’t know many other players that can consistently win their final frames by clearing up the table.

The rest of the break was fairly standard but there was a lot of speculation and crowd murmurs as to whether the magical 1000 would be made that night. In prior interviews, O’Sullivan said that he would be saving this landmark for a future event – some thought he was saving it for the World Championship, which would have meant intentionally refusing centuries for weeks.

But fortunately, this wasn’t the case. O’Sullivan realised that moment was right; he had a great tournament, the crowd were engaging and encouraging him to make it and it was with an opponent who he has great respect for.

If you ever want to see a snooker crowd going ballistic (that isn’t the erratic bellowing of the Shoot Out), watch this. Or the 2008 WSC maximum break. No one can work a crowd like O’Sullivan and only he would have been able to get this much from an audience. This was only enhanced when he played with the crowd with little gestures, getting up from the final pots and of course, playing the century ball left handed.

Now the question is, how many with O’Sullivan go on to make? Well, only he can really answer that. But he’s been making at least 50-60 centuries the past few seasons and he has said previously that he wants to leave a lengthy gap for the next person to try and catch up. One thing is for certain though, this will go for decades as a classic snooker moments that many will remember.

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Mark Selby NI Open 2018 SF - Instant Classic

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The stage is set. We’re at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. I’ve just started my free 7 day trial for the Eurosport Channel on Amazon Prime solely for this purpose. Their previous encounter was 2 years before this event at the UK Championship final in 2016. It was only a best of 11, but man, did everyone get their money’s worth. It’s the semi-final of the Northern Irish Open 2018 and definitely an instant classic.

This match had all the ingredients you would expect from a collision between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby. There was a strong O’Sullivan lead; a tenacious Selby comeback; incredible tactical play; flukes; the lot! Not to mention a black ball decider in the deciding frame!

Considering the length of time it had been since these 2 juggernauts have last clashed, it was an important test for both players to see where their games were at 2 years later. Because it’s safe to say that the consistency in in O’Sullivan’s game had really stepped up in those following couple years, similar to what we see nowadays.

Ronnie O’Sullivan built a 4-2, then a 5-3 lead with 3 centuries; only for Selby to storm back to level the playing field at 5-5. And the deciding frame is where the real action began. Selby was in with a chance first then unexpectedly missed a black off the spot. This was followed by O’Sullivan trying to force an angle out of the black and missing the pot entirely.

Inching towards the end of the frame, Selby seemingly fluked a terrific snooker to put O’Sullivan in immense trouble. O’Sullivan took multiple attempts already to near-miss the final red to which Selby took advantage of the miss rule and kept having the red replaced. This is what most believed to be his downfall as he potentially could have taken a pot on to win himself the frame.

Nevertheless, he had the cue ball replaced and O’Sullivan not only hit the red this time, but fluked it into the left centre! What followed was probably one of the best under-pressure clearances you could hope to see (which included a mouth-watering positional shot from yellow to green), to secure O’Sullivan a 70-68 victory.

This match, on paper, had the potential to be monumental. And it was. To refer back to my intro, it had everything. Not only is it easily one of the best matches I have seen already this season, but it is immediately an instant classic. If you haven’t already, I implore you to watch this match.

Marco Fu vs Luca Brecel Round 1 WSC 2017 - Instant Classic

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Watching the Round 1 match between Luca Brecel and Gary Wilson this year just took me back to the World Championship in 2017 where a similar sort of match occurred between Marco Fu and Luca Brecel – again, in the first round.

Much like the match against Wilson, Brecel’s match against Fu went right down to the wire – the main difference being that Brecel was 7-1 up against Fu, as opposed to being 5-4 and 7-5 up against Wilson. What could possibly go wrong, right?

I should preface this by saying that I am a huge Marco Fu fan. He is one of my favourite players on and off the table. So, seeing him go 7-1, then 7-2 down at the end of the first session was quite difficult to watch, despite how well Brecel was playing. I almost didn’t end up watching the next session because I figured, ‘what’s the point?’ But fortunately, I did.

Fu had to win at least 3 of the first 4 frames at the very minimum to keep himself in the match. Displaying his typical traits of class, resolve and ability to compile breaks, Fu did exactly this. Following the interval, Fu levelled at 8-8. I mean, he showed this comeback fight against John Higgins in the Scottish Open in 2016, so if anyone could turn around a 7-1 deficit, Fu would definitely be a top contender.

Brecel managed to take himself within one frame of victory but unfortunately, wasn’t able to clinch the match – although he did have his chances. A shot that stuck out in my memory is a brilliant cushion-first shot that Fu played to pot a red in such a high pressure situation where he could have easily fouled and left the entire table on for Brecel.

Nevertheless, Fu did end up winning the match and securing a place in Round 2 and if you have watched this match (which I highly urge you do), you have no idea how much more drama there was in Fu’s second round match against Neil Robertson that year.