Yesterday, in the final of the Champion of Champions invitational in Coventry, 26-year-old world No9 Kyren Wilson found himself quickly 5-1 down against Ronnie O’Sullivan, who had won the event twice since its re-inauguration in 2013. O’Sullivan then faltered, and Wilson rallied, but the Rocket still led 8-5 by the time most UK TVs were retuned to Strictly Come Dancing.
The set in the Bishop living room remained resolutely on ITV4, where commentators Stephen Hendry and Clive Everton were about to describe a remarkable recovery by Wilson. He won the 14th frame with a businesslike 56 break, won the next with another break of the same score after a bad missed blue by O’Sullivan, then took frame 16 with a stunning 104 break to draw level: 8-8. The first to 10 would win.
In frame 17, 65-0 up, Wilson refused a blue into the green pocket, instead putting the black safe on the right-hand side cushion. O’Sullivan clearly saw Wilson’s negativity as a spur, strode forward and, with little deliberation, potted a red with stun-run-through, developing the black into a potable position. But a couple of shots later he missed a black, meaning that a snooker was now required, and angrily conceded by flicking the white across the table with the shaft of his cue. Wilson had now won four frames on the trot and was leading 9-8; one more frame would give him victory.
He should have won frame 18, and with it match and title, but, again playing with insufficient positivity, he allowed what should have been a winning break to end at 61, having potted a black too tentatively to achieve good position on the next red, and consequently missing it. O’Sullivan dished up to take the frame: 9-9.
Even then, Wilson should have won the deciding frame. O’Sullivan missed a red and let his opponent in. Wilson surveyed the table, made his trademark double-quickstep approach to set himself in his inelegant but effective both-knees-bent position, and potted a red, leaving an angle on the black so as to cannon into the pack and split the reds. As the black whizzed into the right-top pocket, Hendry said, “He’s played it to perfection.” Indeed he had – except that one of the split reds crept into the left-middle pocket: foul shot. “Looks like he’s not destined to win this match, Clive,” added Hendry.
A bit of scrappy play by both players ensued – including a rare waistcoat foul by O’Sullivan – until Wilson took on an unlikely double, missed it via a double-kiss that let O’Sullivan in, then watched in despair as the Rocket won with a 110 clearance.
“If Kyren had attacked me more, he probably would have beaten me,” said O’Sullivan afterwards, “but a couple of times he got a bit negative and that allowed me to get back in.” Wilson is not a flair player but he is dogged. If he could cut loose more, he would win more. I hope he learns to do just that.