NEIL Robertson kept his Wuxi Classic title defence on track with the narrowest of victories over Shaun Murphy on Friday.

The Australian made a great pressure clearance of 43 to beat Murphy 5-4 and advance to the semi-finals. Murphy had looked certain to win but missed a straightforward red and Robertson stepped in, although he was left with a difficult last black with the cue ball close to a side cushion.

“It wasn’t the greatest match and playing conditions were tough,” said Robertson, who beat John Higgins 10-7 in the Wuxi final last season.

“I missed a red to the middle in the last frame then it looked as if Shaun was going to win. Luckily for me he missed as well and I held myself together to make a really good clearance. The last black was a horrible shot under pressure. It’s nice so early in the season to make a clearance like that. I’m delighted with the win.”

Robertson faces a semi-final meeting with Barry Hawkins (pictured), who also survived a decider against Marco Fu.

In a high quality encounter, Hawkins made two superb clearances on the way to leading 4-2 and led the seventh frame 53-0. But Fu fought back into contention, winning the frame and dominating the eighth to force a decider. He led 31-0 but Hawkins eventually made his highest break of the match, 89, to edge through.

“I’m really pleased with my form,” Hawkins said. “Over the last two years I’ve been consistent, I’ve had confidence and I’ve won a couple of tournaments.

“I have more self-belief and I’m used to being in the later stages of tournaments. It would be great to win a trophy this early in the season.”

Joe Perry kicked off his quarter-final against Finland’s Robin Hull with a 137 total clearance and contributed further efforts of 74, 70, 67 and 60 in winning 5-2.

To reach the second ranking event final of his career Perry must beat Martin Gould, who won a thrilling quarter-final with Stephen Maguire 5-4.

Gould made breaks of 93 and 70 to lead 2-0 before Maguire made the highest break of the tournament so far, a 145 total clearance, in the third.

The Scot levelled with a 71 clearance from 0-51 in the fourth and made 77 in the fifth to lead for the first time at 3-2.

Maguire also led 4-3 but a run of 62 helped Gould force the decider and, after trailing 0-57, he eventually produced an excellent 36 clearance to win on the black.

Gould is looking to reach his first ranking final since the 2011 PTC Grand Finals, where he was beaten 4-0 by Murphy.

Sunday’s eventual champion pockets a cheque for £85,000.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.