NEIL ROBERTSON produced a formidable display to reach the quarter-finals of the Dafabet World Championship on Monday – but fell agonisingly short of completing a landmark achievement.
Robertson, the 2010 world champion, pulled away from 9-7 up on Mark Allen overnight to beat the Northern Irishman 13-7 at the Crucible in Sheffield. But Robertson twice missed good chances to complete an historic century of centuries for the season, jawing a black on 94 in the penultimate frame and missing a red on 92 in the last.
“It keeps everyone waiting a little bit longer,” Robertson said. “I feel like a cricketer on 190 or 290. The black I wobbled I thought I’d hit perfect. I was about to celebrate. I was going to look up at [Stephen] Hendry in the commentary box and Willie [Thorne], who’s given me all sorts of stick over the years about how bad a break-builder I am. The barrier was up and everyone could enjoy it. But no – I’ll have to bit a little bit longer.
“Next frame I got in nice and early. It was a brilliant break again. I thought I’d hit the red pretty good but it didn’t go in. I’ve got another match to make it in. The most important thing today was the performance and to try and win as early as possible.
“I’ve not taken liberties or disrespected my opponent. I haven’t played shots I shouldn’t have played, nothing overly risky. That’s the most pleasing thing about it. Today it would have been easy to lose my focus at 12-7 but that didn’t happen and I got the job done. It was faultless really. I played as near as perfect as you can play.”
Allen paid tribute to Robertson’s performance, although he suggested the Australian had employed ‘mind games’ in the early part of the match.
He said: “It’s devastating to lose but that was perfect. I didn’t feel like I made him work that hard for it, he had three easy starters. I lost the match in the first two sessions. I think I was the better player but somehow I was 9-7 down. Some bits of luck went against me. I thought I was dominating and was in more control of myself. Neil was trying little mind games to try and knock me out of my rhythm – taking a long time to put his water in his glass, constantly going back to his seat to wipe his fingers, walking round the tables to see if balls go when I knew they did. Maybe that’s something I need to learn because maybe it kept him in the match.
“I don’t know if they were deliberate like it’s gamesmanship. It’s his way maybe if he’s nervous, if he tries to slow things down it makes him more calm. I’ve tried things before, it’s part and parcel of the game. It was comforting to me because he knew I was playing well and he was scared at 7-6 down, but he finished the second session well.
“But what can you say about that last session? I said to him at the end that if he plays like that for the rest of the tournament that no one can touch him, and I include Ronnie in that. That’s as good as I’ve seen. Ronnie’s never done to me what Neil’s just done.
“Sometimes you just have to hold your hand up and admit you’ve been outplayed.”
Dominic Dale completed a 13-4 victory over Michael Wasley to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championship for the second time – 14 years after he previous featured in the last eight at the Crucible.
Dale resumed leading 12-4 and won a lengthy frame on the blue to set up a meeting with Barry Hawkins.
“I was pleased to get that frame out of the way,” Dale said. “I didn’t want it to go three or four frames before I finally got over the hurdle. Hopefully I’ll be fresh for the quarter-finals now.
“It feels great to be in the quarter-finals. It’s the Blue Riband event of the sport. Some would say I’ve had a good path through but I’ve won the matches easily, which is nice. I’ve got another tough one now. Barry does everything well. We play similar games, it’s just who deals with situations better.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.