Ronnie O'Sullivan will start the new 2022/23 snooker campaign as the sport's undisputed world no. 1 after conquering the Crucible for a record-equalling seventh time.
The 39-time ranking event winner joined old foe Stephen Hendry as the most prolific world champion in modern history with an 18-13 triumph over 2019 champion Judd Trump in a memorable 46th final at the Sheffield venue on Monday night.
His £500,000 winner's cheque secures him the coveted spot at the top of the rankings, a position he remarkably first attained two decades ago at the outset of the 2002/03 season.
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At the age of 46, O'Sullivan – world champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2020 and 2022 – became the oldest winner of the game's biggest tournament since the Crucible first staged the televised event in 1977.
“If I can get another two world titles out, that would be great, but I just like playing," he said. "I enjoy work away from snooker and I’m not all-in with snooker now.
"I became all-in this week, I was emotionally involved. For most of the year it’s like a holiday; win or lose, it didn’t matter, but this was a different beast and I found it difficult to go into the pit again."
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45-year-old Welsh icon Ray Reardon, O'Sullivan's former tactical coach, lifted his sixth world title with a 25-18 victory against Perrie Mans of South Africa in 1978 and held the sport's top spot for six years – also reclaiming the position for a season in 1982/83 – after the ranking system was first introduced in 1975.
'Class of '92' old guard O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams are the only surviving members of the top 16 in 2002 who continue to remain among the elite 20 years later.
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Higgins first held top spot after lifting the first of his four world titles in 1998 and last held it in 2011 with Williams scaling the summit in 2000 before succeeding Higgins for a four-month period 11 years ago.
Williams was world No. 2 with Higgins ranked at fourth spot two decades ago, but joins O'Sullivan in enjoying an astonishing life span among the top 16.
Williams lost 17-16 to Trump in an epic semi-final that he led 16-15 having trailed 7-1, but will start his 31st season on the professional circuit as world No. 7.
Higgins finds himself in fifth place after losing 17-11 to O'Sullivan in their last-four contest.
Several players have retired since the top 16 in 2002 – including Crucible regulars Peter Ebdon, Alan McManus and Joe Swail – but Joe Perry is ranked at 26th after his 9-5 win over Trump in the Welsh Open final in March.
'The Gentleman' was 13th in 2002.
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How World Top 16 looked in 2002/03
- 1 Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng)
- 2 Mark Williams (Wal)
- 3 Peter Ebdon (Eng)
- 4 John Higgins (Sco)
- 5 Ken Doherty (Ire)
- 6 Stephen Hendry (Sco)
- 7 Stephen Lee (Eng)
- 8 Matthew Stevens (Wal)
- 9 Paul Hunter (Eng)
- 10 Jimmy White (Eng)
- 11 Mark King (Eng)
- 12 Graeme Dott (Sco)
- 13 Joe Perry (Eng)
- 14 Quinten Hann (Aus)
- 15 Alan McManus (Sco)
- 16 Joe Swail (Nir)
World Top 16 for 2022/23
- 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng)
- 2 Judd Trump (Eng)
- 3 Mark Selby (Eng)
- 4 Neil Robertson (Aus)
- 5 John Higgins (Sco)
- 6 Zhao Xintong (Chn)
- 7 Mark Williams (Wal)
- 8 Kyren Wilson (Eng)
- 9 Shaun Murphy (Eng)
- 10 Jack Lisowski (Eng)
- 11 Barry Hawkins (Eng)
- 12 Luca Brecel (Bel)
- 13 Stuart Bingham (Eng)
- 14 Mark Allen (Nir)
- 15 Yan Bingtao (Chn)
- 16 Anthony McGill (Sco)
Watch the World Championship and other top snooker live on Eurosport and discovery+.
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