WELSH OPEN 2021: Jordan Brown beats O'Sullivan in a final-frame thriller to take the championship
Jordan Brown has beaten reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in a final-frame decider to win the 2021 Welsh Open.
The final was a scrappy affair, but it was Northern Ireland’s Brown, 33, who pulled off one of snooker’s biggest upsets, a shock 9-8 victory to deny ‘the Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan, 45, a fifth Welsh Open title.
Few would have predicted Brown’s victorious week at Celtic Manor, Newport, where he won four consecutive matches in final-frame deciders, before demolishing Scotland’s Stephen Maguire 6-1 in his first ranking event semi-final.
Brown took a 5-3 lead at the end of the afternoon session and kept his cool to lift the Ray Reardon trophy and claim the £70,000 winner’s prize.
Speaking to the World Snooker Tour after the match, Brown said, “To beat the greatest player of all time in a major final, it’s unbelievable. I’m speechless.”
“It was a privilege just to play Ronnie in a final.”
He becomes the first Northern Irishman to win the Welsh Open, and the lowest ranked player to win a ranking title since Dave Harold won the 1993 Asia Open.
He also becomes the fourth player from Northern Ireland to win a ranking event after Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor and Mark Allen.
“To follow in their footsteps, it’s a dream come true.” Brown said.
It has taken lots of hard work and grit for the world number 81, who was working full-time in a petrol station just five years ago and was one match away from dropping off the tour last season.
Speaking to the BBC, he said, “I always believed in myself, I’ve had some dark days but those make you stronger as a player and a person.”
Nicknamed ‘the Antrim Ferrari’, Brown raced into a 2-0 lead despite an edgy start and lots of unforced errors by both players.
The Rocket finally had lift off in frame three after making a 74 break, helped by a crucial fluked red to keep the break going before Brown punished O’Sullivan’s mistakes in the fourth with a clearance of 78 to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.
After a long bout of safety play in the fifth, O’Sullivan made what was a costly error as Brown took advantage and made his fourth century break of the week.
Magnificent breaks of 135 and 121 in sixth and seventh frames from O’Sullivan reduced his arrears to just one frame, 4-3.
After a botched safety from the Rocket, Brown made a winning clearance in the eighth frame to take a 5-3 lead at the end of the afternoon session.
The opening frame of the evening had parallels with the first session of the afternoon, but tough snookers laid by O’Sullivan were enough to force errors from Brown and secure the ninth frame to reduce the deficit to just one frame, 5-4.
The rocket looked to be firing on all cylinders in the tenth after making a frame winning break of 68, then took the lead after punishing Brown for a missed plant to the middle in the eleventh frame with a break of 61.
Like much of the match, the twelfth frame was tense but after some unforced safety errors by the world champion, Brown kept his cool and levelled the scores 6-6 at the mid-session interval.
Signs of frustration from O’Sullivan were clear in the 13th frame, after under-hitting a routine black off the spot, a ‘hit and hope’ to get out a tough snooker, but Brown kept calm and took the frame to lead 7-6.
O’Sullivan took the 14th frame with a hard-fought break of 58 – which included nine blues and one yellow due to the high valued pink and black being tied up – to level the match at 7-7.
After breaking down on 25 due to a missed pink, O’Sullivan handed Brown a golden opportunity to steal the fifteenth frame, which he took to go within one frame of the title.
The rocket zoomed back with a 119 break in no time to make it 8-8 and force a final-frame decider.
Despite a fluke from O’Sullivan, Brown made a frame and match winning break of 74 to win his first ever ranking title.
Gracious in defeat, O’Sullivan said to the BBC: “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
“I’m so happy for him. He is such a lovely guy and a fantastic player."
The win secures Brown’s place in the Champion of Champions later this year, and a place in next week’s lucrative Players Championship.