RONNIE O’Sullivan believes snooker is fast becoming a sport for the older player after cruising to a record-equalling sixth Masters title last night.

O’Sullivan battered an outmatched Barry Hawkins 10-1 at London’s Alexandra Palace, meaning only he and the legendary Stephen Hendry have now lifted the Masters trophy on six occasions.

It was the most one-sided Masters final since the showpiece switched to the best-of-19 format in 1996 and the 40-year-old made one century break and six further half-centuries as he wrapped up victory before 8pm.

O’Sullivan is now the second-oldest winner of the event – only Ray Reardon in 1976 was older – but with other experienced players still going strong, he is adamant that is just a sign of the times.

“It seems like a lot of the older players are doing well now – John Higgins is still playing well and Mark Williams is punching good. The likes of Hawkins and Bingham are there as well,” said O’Sullivan.

“It seems like this era of players have got such a good game that we’re still able to compete with some of the youngsters coming through. Hopefully there will be a few more 40-year-olds winning tournaments.

“We’re like the OAPs of the sport, so it’s great to still be competing. Me and John [Higgins] should be playing on the seniors but we’re still winning major events! It just goes to show that times are changing for snooker.”

Hawkins actually got off to the perfect start on Sunday afternoon as he pinched the opening frame of the match, only to see O’Sullivan become the first man in history to reel off ten consecutive frames in a Masters final.

Breaks of 70, 136 and 52 made it 3-1 and there was no respite for the world No.8 after the mid-session interval as his opponent played solidly to take a 7-1 lead into the evening.

Hawkins needing something of a miracle to even make the scoreline respectable and sadly for the Kent man, that never materialised as O’Sullivan fluked a pink to win frame nine before knocks of 66 and 82 clinched it.

The world No.6’s triumph was all the more remarkable given this was his first major tournament since taking a eight-month sabbatical from snooker.

He looked patchy in a 6-5 first-round victory over Mark Williams and struggled at times in the semi-final against Stuart Bingham but the victories over Mark Selby and Hawkins were more vintage displays.

And O’Sullivan claims he was slightly shocked to make such a successful return to the big stage.

“I am never normally surprised to win tournaments but to get this one I am a little, the first big one back after eight months,” added O’Sullivan.

“But I still think if I can produce some form it doesn’t matter how long I take out, you have that talent and game if you can produce it.

“I’m level with Stephen Hendry in this now – it’s unbelievable really. This is just a week so getting two more world titles in Sheffield over 17 days will be tougher.

“I am over the moon with the performance, delighted. I knew I needed to raise my level and play like I did against Mark Selby.”

Hawkins also had a remarkable week at Alexandra Palace – reaching the final despite never having won a Masters match in five previous attempts

And the 36-year-old concedes it is a case of mixed emotions following his sub-par performance.

“If someone had told me at the start of the week I would make it to the final and play Ronnie in the final, I would have ripped their arm off but you want to perform and I didn’t,” said Hawkins.

“It was disappointing for me that’s for sure – it feels like the final was over in a blink of an eye.

“I was sitting there and I was thinking, ‘I don’t feel like I’ve even been involved in the final’.

“ I just didn’t get going at all – it didn’t feel like my arm and it’s weird how it happens like that. It’s still a great achievement to get to the final though.”

Eurosport is the Home of Snooker, showing all major ranking events including the Masters, World Championship and the exclusive “Ronnie O’Sullivan Show”