The butterfly effect is where a moment can change the course of history. In this case, a tournament altered the billiards history books.
Today’s German Masters marks the first time a snooker event has been held outside of the UK since the Covid-19 pandemic began almost two years ago.
And we take a look back at Ronnie O’Sullivan’s career-changing triumph at the popular Berlin-based event a decade ago. The Rocket beat Stephen Maguire 9-7 in the famous finale and rose to become the green baize GOAT.
But it could have been all so different. O’Sullivan’s career was at a crossroads and on the verge of losing control. There were genuine fears that he could leave the sport for good in 2012.
He had completely lost his love for the game and the previous season was a complete loss for the tortured genius. O’Sullivan withdrew from the Shanghai Masters and the German Masters, as well as 10 of the 12 PTC events, and lost in every first-round match he played between the 2010 UK Championship and the China Open. from 2011.
It didn’t look good for the most talented player to catch a cue. His game was at an unimaginable low point and his mental state sadly at its worst since infamously exiting the UK Championship quarter-final against Stephen Hendry in 2006.
His private life was in disarray and things got so bad that he withdrew from the 2011 World Championships, only to change his tune when asked to provide written confirmation.
It was around this time that Rocket luckily turned to renowned sports psychiatrist Dr. Steve Peters to resurrect his diving career. And it turned out to be the best decision the mercurial star has ever made.
Peters had worked with the successful Team GB cycling team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and with the Liverpool football team. But he took on the unenviable task of quieting O’Sullivan’s troubled mind.
At the time, O’Sullivan said, “A friend told me in China that I should see this guy. I’ll try anything that can work.”
The game’s biggest star headed to Berlin ranked 14th in the world and in the midst of an unusual two-and-a-half-year title drought in the rankings. With the way O’Sullivan had been playing, he had every chance of qualifying for the 2012 World Championship.
But when it left the German capital, the Rocket was ready to take off and the rest is in the annals of the history books.
That triumph of becoming a caregiver did not come without problems. Peters had to go to great lengths to make sure O’Sullivan got on the plane to compete.
And he was on the verge of an embarrassing first-round cover-up for journeyman Andrew Higginson when he entered the interval of their best-of-nine-frames match down 4-0.
The English cueman took a risk on the last red ball and, indeed, on the match ball, to win 5-1. O’Sullivan fought back while pocketing matches of 86, 63, 60, 66 and 56 to get through the skin of his teeth.
O’Sullivan then defeated Joe Perry 5-1, coming back from 3-1 down to beat Matthew Stevens before a routine 6-4 victory over Stephen Lee to reach the final.
And the then 36-year-old needed to produce another gutsy comeback as he bravely fought back from 5-2 down to clinch the welcome title 9-7 at the expense of former UK champion Maguire.
How different might the snooker landscape be if O’Sullivan hadn’t teamed up with Peters and then won at the Tempodrom? It’s not worth thinking about.
Just three months later, Rocket claimed his fourth World Championship in the sport’s spiritual home of Sheffield and successfully defended his coveted title in 2013.
And that begs the question of how many he might have won if he hadn’t squandered a commanding 8-3, 10-5 lead for a third straight Crucible crown when Mark Selby stopped him dead in his tracks in the 2014 final.
O’Sullivan ultimately claimed a sixth world title in 2020 to match legends Ray Reardon and Steve Davis. It is now very close to Stephen Hendry’s record of seven, which was unfathomable a decade ago.
Since winning his 23rd ranked title in February 2012, Rocket has broken every game record except Hendry’s elusive run on the grandest stage.
The 46-year-old is on his own at 38 ranking titles, 20 Triple Crowns; World Championship, UK Championship (record seven) and Masters (record seven) wins, most with a maximum of 147 (15) and he is the only man to surpass 1,000 century jumps in his career.