NEIL ROBERTSON produced a great comeback and made snooker history in a memorable evening at the Dafabet World Championship on Wednesday.
Robertson became the first player to record 100 century breaks in a single season as he recovered from 9-6 down to beat Judd Trump 13-11 and reach the semi-finals of the game’s premier event at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
The run of 101 came in frame 22 as Robertson levelled at 11-11, raising the Crucible roof amid wild celebration. The world no.1 then comfortably won the next and eventually cleared for victory after Trump had missed the last red in the final frame.
“When I missed the black on 94 against Mark Allen and then missed a red on 92, I went into the match with Judd thinking it’d be a really open game with a lot of big breaks but the first session, he handled the table conditions far better than I did. I found it really tough to play on and thought it’d turn scrappy and I wouldn’t get a chance for a hundred,” Robertson said.
“My focus was thinking about the century of centuries and not focusing on the match. He played really well to lead 6-2 and possibly could have been 7-1, and that would be hard to peg back.
“I was playing way too slow. I wasn’t aware of it but I was looking for problems. My shot time was around 31 seconds, which was disgraceful. If I shaved my head people would think I’m Peter Ebdon. I said to Judd at the end of the match that I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I played at a good pace tonight and thought it was a performance John Higgins has produced, keeping Judd away from the table.
“Early on it was like walking through mud. I couldn’t get any sort of rhythm at all.”
Robertson arrived at the Crucible on 93 centuries for the season with the focus very much on him completing the landmark. However, he twice missed out when close against Mark Allen in the second round and showed few signs of threatening a century as he fell 6-2 and 9-6 down to Trump.
“Going into tonight’s session I’d written it off,” Robertson said. “I thought I’d be like Don Bradman, but I knew I’d be crying as soon as I got home. It was great that it came at such a crucial time of the match. I wasn’t thinking about the century until the frame was completely won. When I potted the green I was just so happy. I’d rather make the century of centuries than a 147 here. It was that important to me to achieve that milestone. Nobody will ever make 200 centuries in a season – that will be impossible. So for me to be the first to reach 100 in a season is a great honour.”
Some felt Trump should have shaken Robertson’s hand rather than walking out of the arena after the century, but Robertson had sympathy for his beaten opponent.
“He’s a young guy and he’s very disappointed,” Robertson said. “He had a really big lead and I put him under pressure. I get along with him really well, it’s fine. He wished me all the best for the semi-finals.
“It was 11-11 and the crowd were going ballistic, so he just wanted to get out of there. I’ve never seen the crowd celebrate like that before. I don’t know if I would have shaken my hand either if I was Judd.”
Trump, the 2011 World Championship runner-up, was understandably disappointed at losing seven of the evening’s nine frames.
“I felt in control of it. Neil played some good stuff towards the end but I always felt I’d get another chance. There were a few distractions towards the end for both players, which was a bit unfair.”
Of the century of centuries, Trump said: “I just had to get out of the arena as quick as possible. It’s a tremendous achievement for him but I didn’t want to be in there any longer. I had to concentrate on trying to win the match.
“If it was a maximum I’d have shaken his hand but a hundred centuries doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s a great achievement, he’s the first in history but I just wanted to get on with the game. I congratulated him at the end of the match.
“I have no hard feelings against Neil. It was an excellent game and we always have good games. I get on with him, but I just wanted to try and win.”
Robertson will play Mark Selby in the semi-finals, with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Barry Hawkins waiting in the final.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.