LONDON (Reuters) - Ronnie O’Sullivan recorded a snooker landmark on Sunday when he became the first player to compile 1,000 career century breaks en route to winning the Players Championship final in Preston.
The English five-times world champion, the most gifted and arguably greatest cueman the game has known, recorded the three 100-plus breaks in his 10-4 victory over Australian Neil Robertson that he needed to reach the milestone.
The player known throughout snooker as “the Rocket” made breaks of 116 and 105 as he shot into a 7-2 lead at the end of the first session before achieving the landmark, fittingly, in the final frame with a 134 to retain his title.
A measure of the 43-year-old’s achievement in his 50th career final is that Scotland’s Stephen Hendry (775) and John Higgins (745) are the only others to have passed 700.
“I just played really, really well. I played well all week, but I played brilliantly today and to cap it off with 1,000 centuries is great,” O’Sullivan told ITV.
“I suppose to me, it’s just what I do since I was seven or eight, playing snooker, potting balls — I love the game.
“It’s great for snooker fans all over the world, but those in Preston tonight, they’re lucky. It’s a great pleasure for me.”
Typically, the master showman O’Sullivan marked the landmark moment in style.
As he prepared to pot the red ball that would take him to the thousandth century, the ambidextrous player switched to stroke the ball left-handed into the centre of the pocket.
It was his 35th title, achieved at the same Preston Guild Hall venue where he won his first in 1993 when he beat Hendry in the UK Championship final to become the youngest winner of a ranking event at the age of 17 years and 358 days.
The latest achievement from one of Britain’s favourite and most colourful sportsmen earned O’Sullivan plaudits from top athletes including Belgian soccer luminary Eden Hazard who sent him a message on a celebratory film produced by World Snooker.
“From one magician to another one, congratulations Ronnie on your 1000 centuries,” Hazard said on the governing body’s YouTube channel.
Stephen Fry, the British actor and author, added: “It’s been a privilege to be alive at the same time as you Ronnie, let’s put it like that.
“It’s a wonderful thing, so thank you as well as congratulations.”
Writing by Ian Chadband; editing by Ken Ferris/Greg Stutchbury