NEIL ROBERTSON’s capture of the Kreativ Dental Clinic Gdynia Open title on Sunday night netted him his first title since last June’s Wuxi Classic. More silverware was always coming for this formidable player and more may indeed follow before the season ends in May.
Robertson made short work of Mark Williams in the final, winning 4-0. The Welshman seemed to tire after a busy couple of days and eyeing the prospect of a trip back to the UK for the World Seniors Championship in Blackpool, where he plays on Monday night.
Williams was also, of course, up against a player strong in every department who relishes the big stage and is not afraid of winning.
Robertson made a somewhat unprepossessing start to the tournament when he was docked a frame for late arrival in his first match. I’m not sure what exactly happened here but it’s fair to say he has previous for this. He only just beat Adam Duffy 4-3 in this match and survived two more deciders en route to the semi-finals.
From level with Shaun Murphy in the last four, he was superb. The way he finished off that match was as good as it gets. Robertson then made a brilliant clearance to steal the third frame of the final on the black and ended with a century.
Relaxed he may be off the table but out in the arena Robertson is a modern snooker warrior, with bottle and belief to spare. The most successful non-British player of all time, he is at the age of 33 poised to win several more trophies in the coming years and goes to the Crucible next month (yes, next month) as one of the four or five leading favourites to triumph at the World Championship.
Robertson has fitness on his side. No stranger to the gym, his vegan diet also keeps him trim and it’s clearly a lifestyle he enjoys. The snooker circuit virtually invites bad diets and the easy option but the Australian has the strength of character to not just follow the pack and do what other players do, a trait shared by the true greats of the game who always did their own thing.
Robertson also deserves praise as one of the best and most thoughtful interviewees in the sport. This is partly because he respects that the media has a job to do but also because he is content to be himself, giving his opinions rather than opinions he thinks people want to hear.
He’s a big fan of Game of Thrones and knows that, like in that world, top level snooker is kill or be killed. It isn’t a place for mercy or sentiment when in the heat of battle.
Robertson’s victory brings the European Tour to an end with the 32 places for the Players Championship finals in Thailand at the end of the month now settled, as are places for the new World Grand Prix.
Williams did his chances of being seeded for the Crucible great good with his run to the Gdynia final. As with John Higgins, who won the Welsh Open last week, the prospect of having to win three qualifying rounds in the World Championship seemed to have focused his mind.
So Robertson was a worthy winner but the other hero of the weekend was Matt Huart, author of ProSnookerBlog, who kept his fellow snooker fans, as well as players and media, informed of all the various machinations in the order of merit, tour survival, world rankings and race for Grand Prix places – a constant stream of information and insight.
Snooker has long relied on enthusiasts to spread the word but this was, by any standards, some effort and is deserving of praise.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.