EDDIE CHARLTON, the great Australian player of the 1970s and 80s, played the game in a very different way to Neil Robertson but he would have proud of the way his compatriot battled and battled and battled some more at the China Open today.

Charlton was hard as nails, making up for in grit what he lacked in flair. Robertson is a much heavier scorer but today had to rely on old fashioned pluck to get past Yu Delu.

Robertson is clearly unwell. Players have withdrawn from tournaments for much less. He spent the whole match coughing. Indeed, the last time someone coughed that much on TV they were sat in the audience of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?

But the old will to win came to the fore and he played his best two frames from 4-3 down. He never once lost his concentration. In terms of standard it was one of his worst performances of the season and therefore one of the best wins.

If anyone wondered why he’s world no.1, this match provided the evidence. He will need all his wits about him against Graeme Dott of course in the quarter-finals but Robertson has already proved one of sport’s oldest maxims: you only get out what you put in.

He is someone who has faced adversity before. He was relegated from the circuit on his 18th birthday and went back to Australia with his future uncertain, joining the line outside a dole office before thinking again. Thank goodness he did. He came back to the UK with £500 to his name, settled in Cambridge and then rose to the top of the sport a long way from home to the frustrating indifference of most of the Australian media.

If they knew how hard he tries and the example he sets they might make more of his achievements.

One thing’s for sure, if he wins the title in Beijing this week it will be one of his greatest feats.