Neither the triumph over Barry Hawkins nor the O’Sullivan change of heart came as a surprise, and now O’Sullivan can begin to recharge his drained batteries for a tilt at next season’s big events.
After going into self-imposed exile from snooker for almost a year, O’Sullivan rolled up in Sheffield without any competitive match practice and proceeded to tear through the draw, culminating in an 18-12 triumph against surprise finalist Hawkins.
Hawkins, the 34-year-old world number 14 from Kent, emerged from their tussle with huge credit. It was comfortably the biggest match of his life and he met the challenge head on. His reward was £125,000, more than treble the size of his previous highest pay cheque, and the respect of his opponent and the watching millions.
But O’Sullivan magisterially took the title, becoming the first man to successfully defend the world title since Stephen Hendry in 1996.
Pressed on whether he would return next year, having during this event pledged to quit before next season’s Crucible tournament, O’Sullivan said: “I can’t say that I am, because I had my year out and enjoyed my year out.
“I intend to play in some small events. Come December or January I’ll have a better idea of what I’m going to do.
“Now I’ve got to enjoy one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, retaining the World Championship title.
“I’m well equipped to win more titles but it’s not easy.
“There were times in this tournament when parts of my game weren’t great.
“But I managed to play my way through the tournament and get stronger and stronger.
“I was able to manage my emotions and my mind better than I ever have done and that got me through.”
He prevailed in record-breaking style, with his six centuries one more than any player has managed before in a World Championship final.
His career total of three-figure Crucible breaks now stands at 131 – four ahead of former front-runner Hendry’s haul.
Following breaks of 103, 106, 113 and 100 on Sunday, O’Sullivan ploughed in 133 and 124 yesterday.
“You have to face your demons during this tournament and that’s why it’s such a hard tournament to win,” O’Sullivan said.
“In the final I had everything to lose and nothing to gain.
“People said it would be a procession, but everyone on the snooker circuit knows what a good player Barry is.”
O’Sullivan earns a wild card to January’s Masters event, and may only be seen fleetingly in action before then. The UK Championship in December could be his first major tournament of the season.
Hawkins made two centuries in the match, so to lose was hard to swallow.
Hawkins said: “I’m a bit gutted straight after the defeat but if someone told me I’d get to the final I’d have ripped their arm off.
“Once you get there you want to win the title but you can’t come up against anyone tougher than that. There’s no shame in losing to him 18-12.
“I just missed a couple of balls here and there. He responded with big break after big break and that’s why he’s won five world titles.”