UK Snooker: World number one Neil Robertson wins in York to pocket slice of history (From York Press)
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UK Snooker: World number one Neil Robertson wins in York to pocket slice of history
Neil Robertson 10, Mark Selby 7
IT IS a list of legends of the game – Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Alex Higgins and Terry Griffiths among their very select number.
Now Neil Robertson has joined them.
The world number one became only the eighth player to win the triple crown of World, Masters and UK titles after he recovered from 5-1 down to beat defending champion Mark Selby 10-7 in a thrilling williamhill.com UK Snooker Championship final at the Barbican last night.
The Australian had looked down and out, his fabled long potting deserting him during an afternoon session that his Leicester opponent largely dominated.
But Robertson found new reserves – reeling off seven of eight frames to turn his significant deficit into an 8-6 lead.
Selby’s famous fighting skills kicked in at that point, but the pivotal moment of a mesmerising match came in the 16th frame.
Robertson was in command but missed a straight pink – hitting the ball way too hard – which would have left Selby needing snookers.
The champion gradually fought his way back into the frame and looked like he was going to steal it. It would have surely been a telling blow on Robertson’s confidence.
But he missed the final black, leaving the ball wobbling in the jaws, and Selby was suddenly 9-7 behind when it looked inevitable the match would be tied at 8-8.
He sat in his chair looking crushed. This would be one fight too far for snooker’s renowned comeback king.
Selby started the match as he had finished his semi-final against Ricky Walden – a 130 clearance an emphatic statement.
But when he tried to clip a red into the corner pocket in the next, it was Robertson who suddenly found his range, a break of 63 levelling the scores.
Selby, lauded for his gritty, tough match play, had a clear early tactic. Keep Robertson at bay and away from the table. It proved, in the early stages at least, to be highly effective.
A loose safety from the man from down under gave Selby a look at a red into a corner pocket and he turned that into 49, only relenting when a long pot to the green pocket hit the jaws and stayed out. Under pressure, Robertson then lost both the safety battle and the third frame when Selby nailed a great long red.
He doubled his advantage in the last frame before the mid-session interval, helped by a superb plant and a safety shot that left Robertson in behind the black and with only one shot – a desperate blast to split a series of reds.
All he could do was leave a pottable ball over the middle and Selby needed no further invitation.
His dominance continued after the break. With Robertson struggling to find the target with anything from range, Selby struck a break of 57 to move 4-1 ahead and, after a black from the Australian never threatened to really test the corner pocket in the next, he notched his fifth frame. But did he then show the first signs of complacency?
He smashed a red at the left corner, a shot which never really had any chance of success, and Robertson’s 54 would see him stop the rot.
That seemed to revitalise him and, when a touch of tension in Selby’s arm saw him cue a long red horribly, Robertson responded magnificently and a break of 123 meant, at 5-3, he was firmly back in a match that had looked to be slipping away.
Selby won the first frame of the evening session to re-establish a three-frame lead but Robertson was in no mood no to surrender the momentum. He closed the gap with 56 and then fired in back-to-back centuries of 122 and 132.
From 5-1 down, suddenly it was 6-6. Game on.
The Aussie looked a different player, strutting around the table and firing in long pots, while Selby, who’d had a dead aim earlier on, looked vulnerable.
A scoreline of 6-6 became 8-6 but Selby wasn’t going down without a fight – a determined break of 74 giving him hope.
Then came his black moment. It was by no means the easiest of pots, the white close to the bottom cushion and the object ball at a slight angle.
He took his time too, having both the cueball and the object ball cleaned as he weighed up the moment.
It was to no avail. At no stage did it look like going in.
And Robertson was cool in the safety exchanges in the final frame.
He got his chance and, when a key red never touched the sides, his break of 57 wrote his name into snooker immortality.
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