THERE SEEMS TO BE a touch of the ‘beware the wounded animal’ syndrome about Neil Robertson judging by his performances so far in the Kreativ Dental German Masters.
Robertson suffered a 10-2 drubbing by Shaun Murphy in the Masters final last month. The scale of the defeat surprised many including, doubtless, the Aussie himself.
But Robertson is as tough as they come and clearly determined to make amends straight away by landing a trophy. Last night in Berlin he followed up his 5-0 victory over Fergal O’Brien in the last 32 with another whitewash win over Xiao Guodong.
He was in the mood to punish right from the start when Xiao missed a tricky red to the green pocket and Robertson made the first of a series of frame winning breaks. He was simply too good in every department.
Watching Robertson at close quarters it is impossible not to be impressed by him. It isn’t just his talent but the dedicated focus he gives every shot. When he first turned professional he was also great to watch but in a raw, rather loose way. He knocked in great balls but also made elementary errors.
Not any more. Now, the Melbourne man is a great all round player, always concentrating on playing the right shot the right way.
And by winning through two rounds comfortably, Robertson keeps some mental energy in reserve for what looks set to be a terrific climax to the tournament.
So many big hitters are still standing, with world champion Mark Selby, Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire joining Robertson in the quarter-finals.
As Robertson shook hands at the end with Xiao, Selby was leading Peter Ebdon 2-1 and a very late finish seemed likely. But despite admitting to feeling more tired than he had before his opening day match with Anthony McGill, Selby lifted his game and won 5-1. It was another impressive demonstration of retaining concentration and focus despite not feeling at his best.
Today, players in the top half of the draw will play two matches – one in the last 16 and then a quarter-final. It is therefore obviously advantageous not to get drawn into a long hard slog in the afternoon session.
Among them is Ronnie O’Sullivan, who faces Joe Perry. They met in the same stage of last season’s World Championship where Perry played superbly to threaten an upset only for O’Sullivan to close out a 13-11 victory with two centuries.
O'Sullivan, inspired by a sizeable audience at the Tempodrom, played quite beautifully to beat Mark Davis 5-1 in the last 32 on Thursday, ending with a century that had many salivating at its sheer eye-catching brilliance.
Alfie Burden, a fine talent who has kept plugging away despite the setbacks, will be through to his first career ranking event quarter-final if he can beat Ryan Day, who sent defending champion Ding Junhui packing yesterday.
The main TV match this afternoon is a repeat of the recent Masters semi-final, in which Shaun Murphy beat Mark Allen 6-2.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.