Ronnie O'Sullivan retains world title

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Ronnie O'Sullivan restated his claim to be the gretest snooker player of all time by retaining his world championship crown despite taking a break from the sport for 11 of the intervening 12 months. He beat Barry Hawkins 18-12 at the Crucible to secure his fifth title.

O'Sullivan was expected to coast to victory but Hawkins played superbly and ensured O'Sullivan had to be at his masterful best to win the trophy. Against any other player, Hawkins would have been world champion. When O'Sullivan is at his best though, it is plain that no player on the planet can live with him. Although the sport needs his presence, his skill and his charisma, his rivals may be relieved at O'Sullivan's promise to retire.

He was staying tight-lipped about whether he will be back next year to defend the title, although all his recent intimations have been that he doesn't need snooker anymore. He preferred to pay tribute to Hawkins for making it a tough final.

"At no stage did I feel relaxed or feel that I had it won," O'Sullivan said. "You have to face your demons in this tournament. I had everything to lose and nothing much to gain, because everybody said it was going to be a procession. But I know how good Barry is and he's produced brilliant snooker during the last two weeks."

After O'Sullivan celebrated victory with his son, everyone wanted to know about the future. O'Sullivan said he planned to play a few small tournaments just for the love of playing, and make a decision in January. "I can't say that I'm going to be back here next year," he said, with a weary smile. "I had my year out. I enjoyed it. You don't know what's going to happen because the game's always changing."

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