If there is indeed a changing of the guard taking place in snooker, then someone clearly forgot to tell Ronnie O’Sullivan about it.
The Rocket’s long-time rival and fellow ‘Class of 1992’ member John Higgins made the observation after noting his own four final defeats this season, and citing five losses at the same stage for O’Sullivan last season – combined with recent titles for 20-somethings Zhao Xintong and Luca Brecel.
But after extending two of his records and proving some doubters wrong by beating Neil Robertson 10-8 for a second World Grand Prix success, O’Sullivan reckoned there had been some karma at work with the ‘snooker gods’ smiling on him for toughing it out when the magic was absent.
Six-time world champion O’Sullivan, 46, claimed a 38th ranking title after trailing 7-5 – and the gap between his first in 1993 and the most recent one is now a staggering 28 years and 21 days pushing back another boundary.
And afterwards world No3 O’Sullivan spoke from the heart about the satisfaction at winning as an underdog, but also being a long way from his best until it mattered most.
O’Sullivan refused to buckle under an early Robertson onslaught and admitted that only his devoted fans made him play on for two snookers at 4-3 down – a key frame he went on to win.
He said: “In a run of good frames like at the end you are in almost a different realm, and into the zone but you never know when the magic is going to happen.
“Luckily the snooker gods always seem to shine brightly on me and so I try and keep the faith, and no matter what happens those gods will do what’s right for snooker.
“Then when I get going and build some momentum as I did at the end, that’s the snooker gods saying ‘Come on, this is your chance, it’s up to you now, yet’s see what you can do’.
“And that was the payback in this final for hanging on and clinging on earlier in the match, just hoping that at some point I clicked. Then it’s bang, bang, bang, see you later, let’s get out of here.
“The magic that I used to have a lot more of, and that I felt in those last frames against Neil, is unbelievable.
“That is why I play and if I am not getting enough of that I struggle. It is a gift winning tournaments not at your best. Mark Selby has it in snooker, Tiger Woods had it in golf.
“Certain sportspeople get the job done even when I am not at my best, and that is probably why I have won as much as I have.
“Anyone can win when you’re playing well, but winning when you’re not is I think the hallmark of an all-time great. I never thought I had it, but on reflection I have won titles playing some dismal stuff.
“Champions in this sport don’t just pot balls and do some decent safety – they must have character, bottle, tenacity, determination, and the X-Factor sometimes.
“I might not have the best cue action, or be the best at a lot of things – but I am pretty good at getting the job done and that has really helped me in my career.
“In that last frame of the afternoon when I needed two snookers, I have an amazing fan base and if the crowd hadn’t been there I might just have conceded.
“But they gave me a gee-up, and had paid to come so you want to give them some value. Because there was another session, I just thought ‘Let’s see’.
“I was the underdog for that final and it was nice to be in that situation. I know a lot of people were writing me off and didn’t think I had a chance.
“And rightly so because my form had not been great. Even when I won the World Championships last year it wasn’t great, and even though I got to five finals last season it wasn’t great either.
“But I can play sometimes. And I knew if I did against Neil it would be interesting, and if I didn’t I would get absolutely hammered – maybe 10-2.
“There was no way I was going to blow him away, but there was a good chance he could blow me away. So I had to fight, dig in, get two snookers in one frame, keep my temperament.
“I did everything to try and make a game of it – and then when I did finally find my form I was dangerous.”
After ending what for him was almost a title drought, O’Sullivan admitted he is totally at peace with his role as an occasional rather than serial winner. And he reiterated a retirement target – giving himself another three years and crack at three more World Championships until his daughter finishes her schooling.
He added: “I get it, I am fully aware of where I am with snooker and what I want out of it, and have accepted it. Wins and losses don’t mean as much as they did.
“And I want to keep playing until my daughter finishes school, that is motivating me to play for at least another three World Championships. Otherwise I would probably turn it in tomorrow.
“You get tired of doing the same thing all the time, and try and find little things to keep you motivated and playing. And that’s one for me, once she has done her exams.
“But hearing about the records, especially the one about the gap from this one to my first one – it just reminds me how old I am. It doesn’t make me feel any better!”