NEIL ROBERTSON, like the great players of any era, thrives in a big match in a big arena with a big title on the line, as he proved by capturing the Champion of Champions in Coventry on Sunday night.
It is Robertson’s biggest title since he won the Wuxi Classic, his tenth ranking event crown, at the beginning of last season.
The Melbourne left-hander made a quiet start to the current season, losing in deciders at the Australian Open, Shanghai Masters and Ruhr Open.
He looked a little rusty having skipped a couple of European Tour events but made the quarter-finals of the International Championship and his remarkable long potting, some heavy scoring and sound tactical play all came to the fore at the Ricoh Arena.
Top players produce their best not in a massive venue with ten tables and a cast of thousands but in events where every match feels like a final: one table, big money and everything on the line.
This was true of Ronnie O’Sullivan on the first two stagings of the Champion of Champions and true again for Robertson. Mark Allen, who played so well all week, continuing the form he showed in Sofia immediately before the tournament, pressed him hard from 8-3 down to trail only 8-5 but Robertson responded with trademark resilience, winning a 52 grind-fest to land a killer blow.
He has often got it in the neck for some well publicised mishaps when it comes to preparing for events or travelling to them but Robertson is in many ways a model professional. From his walk-on music to the way he conducts himself in interviews – and obviously his formidable all round game – he exudes class.
It’s a crying shame that the Australian media don’t take more notice of his achievements because he embodies exactly the qualities his country admires in a sportsman: mental toughness, determination and a cool head under pressure.
Now that he has this title under his belt he will be an even bigger threat at the UK Championship, which he won in 2013.
The tournament itself was a great success judging by the turnout by crowds in what has always been a strong snooker area. They built as the week went on and spectators were treated to an entertaining final.
They also saw Robertson step up as he has so often before, seizing his chance and, in so doing, seizing yet more silverware.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.