Given his dominance of the last two world championships,perhaps it is appropriate that Ronnie O'Sullivan is the first winner of this new Champion of Champions event,but boy was he made to work for it by Stuart Bingham in a tense days action at the Ricoh Arena.
Following his late night deciding frame victories over Ding & Robertson the previous two evenings Ronnie came into the final as a heavy favourite to lift the crown,but it was Bingham who made the perfect start taking the opening frame with a century.Ronnie then toook the next two and looked set to make it three in a row before Bingham nicked the last before the interval to make it 2-2.
There were real signs now that Ronnies exertions in the previous rounds had taken a toll on him and Bingham was doing what he had to do in taking full advantage to move into a 5-3 lead with his second century of the day.The last frame of the session was now vitally important and it was to go to Ronnie with a classy 130 break to set up an exciting evening session.
On the afternoons evidence it looked unlikely that either player would pull away with this match and so it proved in a tense evening session where the lead changed hands again and again.
Firstly Ronnie took the opening two frames to lead 6-5 before Bingham responded to go 7-6.Ronnie again took the next two to lead 8-7.Bingham did manage to level things again at 8-8 before Ronnie dug deep once more,to take the two frames he needed and seal the 10-8 victory
This win typified everything we have come to expect from Ronnie in recent seasons.There were definite stages in this one where the Ronnie of old would have thrown his head in the air and buckled,but we just don't see that these days.Instead he put his head down and ground out a win under difficult circumstances.
As for Stuart,once the disappointment of defeat subsides he can look back at another fine weeks work where he not only claimed the scalps of Judd Trump & Mark Seby but also pushed the world champ as much as anyone could in a final.There was a time when Bingham reaching the business end of tournaments was considered a shock,but such has his stock risen in recent years that that is certainly no longer the case.He is now one of a band of players capable of challenging for any tournament he enters.
So what of the tournament itself. Well a new tournament,especially an invitational one,in an already full calendar was always a risky move,but \I think this one has been met with universal approval.The venue looked to be made for snooker,the crowds were great all week,The players seemed to like the format and responded with some high quality play and ITV4's coverage,especially the commentary team lead by Clive Everton(what were the BBC thinking) and supported by Neal Foulds &Alan McManus,was beyond superb.All in all a fabulous tournament that,on this evidence will quickly establish itself as one of the highlights of the season.
Finally lets once again salute our champion.I think few would argue that this was Ronnie at his supreme best but he battled hard and thoroughly deserved his win. The fact that this wasn't him at the peak of his powers and yet he still managed to beat the seasons two best players so far (Ding & Robertson) on his way to the title will surely leave everyone else shaking there heads and wondering how they can stop this man.