Neil Robertson became the first player into the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship as he took the last five frames of his clash with Shaun Murphy to win 13-6.
It was snooker of the highest quality from Australia’s Robertson – he fired three centuries and six more breaks over 50 as he turned a potentially tough second round match against 2005 Crucible champion Murphy into a comfortable victory. World number four Robertson now meets John Higgins or Stuart Bingham on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Having won three ranking titles and reached three other finals this term, 37-year-old Robertson is enjoying the best season of his career. And he could finish it by becoming the first non-British player to lift snooker’s most famous trophy twice, having done so for the first time in 2010.
Murphy, by contrast, has had a disappointing campaign by his high standards, failing to add to his trophy haul. He looked back in form in a 10-0 demolition of Luo Honghao in the first round this week, but was no match for Robertson.
Breaks of 106, 79, 57, 127, 67 and 62 helped Robertson build a 10-6 lead in the first two sessions. The match would have been closer had Murphy not missed a crucial frame-ball brown at 8-6 during the second session.
And there would be no fight-back from the Englishman in tonight’s conclusion; in fact he potted just one ball. Robertson compiled runs of 120, 88 and 95 as he sailed over the winning line.
“The first session yesterday was a wonderful standard from both of us,” said Robertson, winner of 16 ranking titles. “This morning was a little bit tougher, there were some close frames, but I pinched a couple of big frames on the black.
“Tonight was a great way to finish off the match. I’m playing with freedom. It’s a lot easier said than done, but I’m just going out there and playing. There will always be nervous moments, because as a competitor you want to win. Just ask my son, when we play Monopoly or Scrabble I hate losing, even to him – if I lose I flip the board over!
“But at the same time the bigger picture is going out there and performing for the crowd, hoping they see a great match and making some big breaks for them. I’d love to win it, no doubt whatsoever, but I’m just trying to play well and it’s working.”
Murphy said: “I was bang under it from the moment I was drawn against Neil Robertson. He was just too good, he played too well, scored too well, his safety was too good, his tactical play was too clever, and frankly if he keeps playing like that he’ll win the tournament. If he keeps playing like that get the engravers ready, his name’s going on the trophy.
“I played well in my first match, I was really thrilled to have a good performance again. That’s given me a bit of confidence going forward into next season. I’ll put the cue down for a few weeks, get back on the practice table, and try and pick up next season where I’ve finished this season, which is in a much better place than I’ve been for most of it.”
On the other table, Stephen Maguire holds a 9-7 overnight lead going into the concluding session of his match against James Cahill. Having knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in round one, Cahill is battling hard as he seeks to continue his run.
Glasgow’s Maguire led 5-3 after the first session and took two of the first three scrappy frames tonight to go 7-4 ahead. Blackpool’s Cahill fought back impressively as breaks of 69 and 52 helped him recover to 7-7. But it was Maguire who finished the session strongly as runs of 83 and 121 saw him regain the advantage.
They resume at 2.30pm on Saturday.