NEIL ROBERTSON has revealed his latest motivational strategy to keep picking up trophies and maintain his place at the summit of the snooker rankings in 2014 - and it involves painting a large target on the back of Welsh legend Mark Williams.
Williams has won precisely double the 31-year-old Robertson’s Triple Crown haul of the game’s Majors of one world title, one Masters success, and one UK win, in amassing an impressive career tally of 18 ranking tournament wins.
And rather than making wild claims of attempting to match the feats of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, recent williamhill.com UK Championship winner and world no.1 Robertson is looking to first reel in his fellow left-hander in the pantheon of the greats as he sets about the considerable task of staying hungry and remaining at the top.
The Australian, who takes on Mark Allen in one of the ties of the opening round at the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace having lifted the trophy in 2012, finished off 2013 in the grand manner by winning in York with a brilliant 10-7 comeback win over Mark Selby to take his own ranking title count to nine.
The 2010 world champion told Inside Snooker: “I can’t get any higher but all I can do is keep winning tournaments and trying to build my own legacy, more Masters, more UKs, more worlds, and more ranking events.
“Of the world champions probably the target for me now is Mark Williams. I have won one world title, one Masters and one UK. He has won two of all of those, and 18 ranking titles in all.
“It would be incredible for me to achieve what he has achieved. That is my next target, to win the Majors multiple times. That will be very difficult but what other goals can I set myself?
“I have won everything in the game, and been no.1 a couple of times and stayed there, I have made a lot of centuries this season so that’s what I am focusing on.
“Coming through with Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Ali Carter and Ding Junhui we all started winning things around the same time, and you are always competing with those people who you came through with.
“Out of those Ding and I have pulled away a bit in terms of winning titles last year. Murphy and Maguire were ahead of us at one time.
“But we have won seven ranking titles between us last year, and have dominated to some extent, with Marco Fu also doing very well.”
Robertson also insists that his first-round World Championship exit to Rob Milkins last year was a huge and painful blip in an otherwise spectacular calendar year that saw a radical change of approach to match snooker and drove him on to greater glories and back to no.1 in the world.
Along with China’s Ding Junhui Robertson swept most before him in 2013. The pair won seven ranking titles between them - and both go into the Masters as serious contenders for a second triumph at the prestigious invitational event.
Though there were losses in finals Robertson ranked the 10-8 loss at the Crucible as by far the most crushing disappointment of the past 12 months, not so much for the defeat itself but for the manner of it, feeling he had been too passive – something that led to going out with an unacceptable whimper rather than a bang.
Robertson added: “I lost a few finals last year but I won a few too, and the Crucible was the only real blip. It was the only result I had last year that I thought was really unacceptable. But it may have spurred me on to have such a good season this time.
“I identified faults in the way I played that match, and haven’t done the same things again since. I haven’t tried to hang on to matches, but gone out to win them and feel better for it.
“That will never happen again to me in a big match like that, I will never lose a game because it wasn’t played on my terms, the UK Championship final was an example of that.
“Even though I was 5-1 down it was relatively early in the match and I was able to change the pace of things. In last year’s Masters final, I let that get away against Mark Selby. It wasn’t played in the way I wanted it to be.”
Robertson also believes that the days of former greats Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry staying as world no.1 for years at a time have gone for good, and for that reason is especially proud of remaining at the top of the rankings for eight months in such a competitive era.
He added: “It is a big thing staying at the top in any sport, at least as hard as getting there. And that is why I am very proud of having been world no.1 for a decent amount of time, eight months or whatever.
“I don’t think we are going to see players being no.1 for three, four or five years again like happened with Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry because of the ranking structure.
“So to do it for eight months is a fantastic achievement and probably worth a couple of years under a different system and with fewer tournaments.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.