Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a record-equalling sixth Masters title as he outclassed Barry Hawkins in Sunday’s final at London’s Alexandra Palace.
The Rocket had not played in a major tournament since last year’s World Championship but he needed little time to blow away any cobwebs as he swept Hawkins aside to seal a comfortable 10-1 victory.
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker1) January 17, 2016
This one really went with the form-book as O’Sullivan moved level with Stephen Hendry on six Masters titles by beating a man who has only ever got the better of him once in their 11 meetings.
Hawkins had never won a match in this tournament until this week but, although he made it to the final, he never looked like shocking O'Sullivan.
After more than eight months away, O’Sullivan eased straight back into his stride – even if he said his semi-final performance against Stuart Bingham had been “embarrassing”.
But he did not need to be vintage O’Sullivan to win here, securing the trophy by the biggest winning margin in 28 years, and he was delighted to return with a victory.
“I’m over the moon,” he told BBC Sport.
“I watched Barry play in his semi-final and I knew I needed to raise my level and I was able to do that. I managed my emotions well on such a big occasion.
“I’m delighted I’ve been able to play as well as I have done. I’m never normally surprised that I win tournaments but I’m surprised I’ve won my first one back in eight months.
“But if I can produce some form it doesn’t matter how much time you take out, it is all about producing it and I was able to do that this week.”
For Hawkins, it was a case of what might have been as he was beaten by O’Sullivan for a 10th time in succession.
“I wish he would retire, to be fair!” he said of his conqueror.
Hawkins took the lead after winning a scrappy opening frame in which both players passed up the opportunity to build a lead.
O’Sullivan had complained that his recent back problems had led to his unhappiness in the semi-final but he levelled with a quick-fire 70 after a poor safety from Hawkins.
The best of the 40-year-old came through in the third when a break of 136 saw him take the lead for the first time.
The fourth frame was tighter and Hawkins missed a simple black to allow O’Sullivan to put together a lead and, despite the fact Hawkins then did well to clear the reds from the cushions he went on to miss a difficult yellow and O’Sullivan went on to win the frame with ease.
Hawkins just could not take his chances when they came his way and, after the mid-session interval, he passed up the opportunity to reduce the arrears as O’Sullivan let him in with a sloppy safety shot.
Misjudgement? No problem!January 17, 2016
It was the five-time Masters winner who went on to open up a three-frame lead after some marvellous cueing – before a simple red was missed by Hawkins in the sixth to give himself more of a mountain to climb.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) January 17, 2016
In what was becoming a regular occurrence in this final, Hawkins again let O’Sullivan take a frame he himself had the chance to win.
A missed red down the table presented a chance to O’Sullivan and he did not let it pass as he was starting to win both the comfortable and scrappy contests and leave Hawkins in the dust.
A break of 77 put O’Sullivan further ahead and, although Hawkins showed his class with a superb red potted off the green, he ended the session 7-1 down and in need of a miraculous comeback in the evening session.
But, unfortunately for the 36-year-old, a stunning fight-back was not to be as yet another chance passed him by at the start of the second session – missing a straight-forward yellow and an easy green with O’Sullivan taking the closest frame of the final after fluking the pink.
A missed red from O’Sullivan in the 10th did not prevent him from returning to the table and building a 66 break on the back of a tremendous long pot.
And O’Sullivan completed a match-winning break of 82 to secure his sixth crown and set his sights on the World Championships once again.