LONDON • Even after 35 titles, Ronnie O'Sullivan still can capture a snooker audience like no other player.
Arguably the most gifted and greatest snooker player the game has known, he drew a sustained standing ovation on Sunday by becoming the first player to compile 1,000 career century breaks en route to retaining the Players Championship final in Preston.
The five-time world champion recorded the three 100-plus breaks in his 10-4 victory over Australian Neil Robertson that he needed to reach the milestone.
"The Rocket" made breaks of 116 and 105 as he shot to a 7-2 lead at the end of the first session before achieving the landmark, fittingly, in the final frame with a 134.
Typically, the master showman marked the milestone in style.
As he prepared to pot the red ball that would take him to the thousandth century, the ambidextrous player switched to stroke the ball left-handed into the centre of the pocket, leading to widespread applause.
O'Sullivan later admitted that the rousing reception, which came at the same Preston Guild Hall venue where at the age of 17, he became the youngest winner of a ranking event, was something he would "remember for the rest of my life".
The 43-year-old Englishman told British channel ITV: "I suppose to me, it's just what I do since I was seven or eight, playing snooker, potting balls - I love the game."
To put his feat into perspective, Scottish greats Stephen Hendry and John Higgins are the only other players to have more than 700 century breaks with 775 and 745 respectively, and O'Sullivan's achievement earned him plaudits from athletes and celebrities alike.
Chelsea star Eden Hazard sent him a message on a celebratory film produced by World Snooker.
"From one magician to another one, congratulations Ronnie on your 1,000 centuries," the Belgium forward said on the governing body's YouTube channel.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA, REUTERS