NEIL Robertson has been champing at the bit all season to get a crack at Ronnie O’Sullivan and that will now happen at Alexandra Palace in a Masters semi-final on Saturday.

The world No1 was in simply devastating form against Ali Carter on Thursday night, producing a near unplayable combination of heavy scoring and faultless safety play.

Most top players are poor losers. That is generally what makes them winners. But Carter could afford to be generous in defeat and raise a smile or two in his post-match press conference, and it wasn’t all down to his new perspective on life and the game after his health battles.

He just knew exactly how well the 32-year-old from Australia had played, and could find little to beat himself up about.

Three-time ranking event winner Carter, now looking to seriously challenge for titles again after his enforced lay-off last year while undergoing treatment for cancer, missed perhaps a couple of balls in their quarter-final.

But that was enough. Robertson pounded him with breaks of 128, 57, 98, 127 and a closing 84, outscoring his opponent by 699 points to 144 in a 6-1 victory. In amongst the potting carnage Carter handled himself pretty well in the safety exchanges – but Robertson was even better.

Robertson was desperately disappointed to miss out on playing O’Sullivan in the Champion of Champions final in November, after losing to Judd Trump. And any chance of another high-profile meeting went by the wayside when he lost to Graeme Dott at the UK Championship.

He said: “It was one of the best matches I have played in my career. I scored so heavily and my safety was great too, every department was spot on.

“It had to be, I knew the crowd would be with Ali, and rightly so, so I was prepared for that and overall it is hard to find fault with my performance. I only made one or two mistakes.

“Now I get to play Ronnie, the defending champion, in a semi-final in front of a full house at the Masters. What more do you want?

“All season I have been the favourite in virtually every match, so maybe it won’t hurt going in to one not being the favourite. But we always have good matches and the head to head isn’t that bad for me in the major tournaments.”

Carter, 35, said: “You can forget about Ronnie O’Sullivan or anyone like that, if Neil plays like that there is only one winner of this tournament for me.

“He put me under so much pressure, everything becomes difficult with the safety he played. I was in a happy place out there and enjoying it, but every time I came to the table I was snookered or tight on the baulk cushion.

“I literally missed a couple of balls, and so that is the way it goes. You can only play as well as someone lets you. No one has played as well as that against me, and I have played Ronnie twice in world finals.”


Photograph by Monique Limbos