Neil Robertson is both Australian and a cricket fan so will be well aware of the story of Sir Don Bradman, who went into his last ever Test match needing to score just four runs to end his career with a remarkable average of 100.
Bradman was out for a duck and thus ended on an average of 99.94. This did nothing to diminish his status as one of cricket’s genuine greats but must have been mightily annoying.
Robertson is closing in on his own landmark achievement. He stands on 89 centuries. With four more events this season, including the Haikou World Open currently in progress, he needs to make another 11 to become the first player to make a century of centuries in a single season.
This doesn’t sound like much – just 11 more – but, like a cricketer nudging into the 90s, Robertson could come to see it as more of a millstone than a milestone, with the extra pressure having an effect on his overall performance.
When he broke down on 84 in the final frame of his 5-1 victory over Jamie Jones on Monday he was seen shaking his head, the chance of another century gone. There is a danger that all the talk of what would be a great personal achievement – and I’ve talked about it as much as anyone – will become a burden, not a cause for celebration.
He did make a century against Jones but it was noticeable that when he played the double leading by 35 on the last red he didn’t play to put the cue ball safe in case he missed, he played for the black because he needed it plus the six colours to make 100 exactly. The double went in, he made the ton. It was hardly the riskiest shot of the day.
But…the time may come when he has to choose between playing his normal percentage game and pushing the boat out to try and make another century. And that could spell trouble.
I really hope Robertson makes it to a hundred hundreds because he’s a dedicated player who has sacrificed much for his career and it would be a personal feather in his cap. I equally hope that the whole business doesn’t end up messing with his head to the extent that he starts trying too hard.
In a way it’s a nice pressure to have, and Robertson is made of tough stuff. I’m sure he’d rather have another World Championship title to his name than a centuries’ record. Then again, a long run at the Crucible could ensure he has both.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.