TWO months ago Ronnie O'Sullivan was a patient at The Priory Clinic, Roehampton. In Brighton yesterday the player recognised as snooker's finest natural talent defeated Mark Williams, the world No1, 7-5 in a high-quality final of the Champions Cup.
Not surprisingly, O'Sullivan, who collected Pounds 100,000 by prevailing in the opening event of the season, was overcome with emotion after winning six of the closing seven frames. While the reasons behind O'Sullivan's admittance to The Priory have not fully emerged, it is apparent that his stay was beneficial.
"I'm starting life again at 24," he said. "I've been through a lot of stuff in the last few months, I've got my life in order now and the public will see a different side of me."
O'Sullivan, who beat Stephen Hendry, the holder, 5-2 in the semi-finals, created little impression in the early stages as Williams, despite suffering from food poisoning, seized command with a quintet of half-century breaks in the first five frames.
When play resumed after the interval, O'Sullivan swiftly brought about a radical transformation in his fortunes. Runs of 51, 78 and 95 helped him to reel off four successive frames in 50 minutes before Williams, by now feeling "terrible", drew level at 5-5.
The eleventh frame proved decisive. In first, Williams had reached 27 when he jawed a red down the side cushion, using the rest. O'Sullivan stepped in with a dashing run of 77 and followed up with a break of 91 to complete the most gratifying comeback of his unpredictable career.
O'Sullivan agreed that of the 17 professional tournaments he has won, including two United Kingdom titles, his latest success provided the source of greatest satisfaction. "This is different because in the past I haven't been able to reflect on anything good. I've always been on a treadmill of turmoil," he said.
Having also secured the Pounds 5,000 highest-break award for a 140 total clearance against Jimmy White during the round-robin phase, O'Sullivan will surely travel to Plymouth next month for the British Open with expectations justifiably high.
Copyright (C) The Times, 2000