AN EMOTIONAL Neil Robertson fought back tears after dramatically denying close friend Joe Perry a maiden ranking title in the Wuxi Classic final on Sunday.

Robertson trailed 3-0 and 5-3, led 8-6 but had to come from 9-8 down to win 10-9 and successfully defend the title.

But there were no celebrations from the Australian and tears sprang to his eyes as he shared Perry’s disappointment of coming so close to landing the trophy.

The pair have practised together in Cambridge for a decade and Robertson seemed suddenly upset that it was he who had denied Perry the spoils.

Perry made the better start to the final in a largely scrappy opening session but Robertson cleared last red to black in the ninth frame to trail only 5-4 at the halfway stage.

The 2010 world champion won three of the four frames played before the last interval to lead for the first time in the final at 7-6 and when he extended this to 8-6 he looked set for victory.

But Perry closed to 8-7 and then won a dramatic 16th frame to draw level. Robertson had failed to obtain position on frame ball red and Perry eventually set about a clearance, only to miss the last black off its spot. A safety exchange ensued before Perry, to his credit, potted the black from distance for 8-8.

Perry, a professional for 22 years, who turns 40 in August, then made the highest break of the match, 93, to lead 9-8. Robertson left a red in the jaws of a corner pocket in the next but Perry could only pot it by knocking one red on to another. Somehow, the red stayed out and Robertson ran 87 to force a deciding frame.

Perry had first chance but missed a long red on 14 and Robertson stepped up with a winning break of 78 to pocket the £85,000 first prize.

It gives Robertson his tenth world ranking title, level with Jimmy White and tied seventh on the all-time list. Ding Junhui is sixth on 11 titles.

At 32, Robertson is well placed to win more trophies having developed into a formidable big match player. He told Inside Snooker before the Wuxi Classic began that his semi-final exit at the World Championship had made him even hungrier for titles.

For him, now, the one he really wants to win is his home event, the Australian Goldfields Open, which starts in Bendigo on Monday.

As for Perry, a great week ended in great disappointment. To get so close and just fall short is a sickener but there will be many more tournaments and he must take the positives from his performances in reaching the final, and from 8-6 down.

He came up against a player who is so reliable when the heat is on. But although Robertson’s standard of snooker was again of high quality, his very human reaction at the end may well be what the final is remembered for.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.