Neil Robertson put on a battling display to beat Anthony McGill 6-3 and clinch his place in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo Masters at Alexandra Palace.
Victory for Robertson ends a streak of two consecutive opening round Masters defeats, having fallen at the first hurdle in 2020 and 2021. The Australian was victorious nine years ago at Alexandra Palace, when he defeated Shaun Murphy in the 2012 final to secure the only Masters title of his career so far.
Robertson has been in fine form so far this season. He has already picked up silverware at the English Open, where he beat John Higgins 9-8 from 8-6 down in the title match. Robertson also reached the final of the Cazoo World Grand Prix before Christmas, but narrowly lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Next up this week for 2010 World Champion Robertson is a quarter-final clash with either O’Sullivan or Jack Lisowski.
Scotland’s McGill remains without a match win at Alexandra Palace, having lost out to John Higgins in the opening round on his debut in 2018. He will now turn his attentions to a trip to Berlin later this month for the German Masters.
It was McGill who looked the stronger player in the opening exchanges this evening, with Robertson struggling to produce his pre-Christmas form. The Glaswegian moved 2-1 ahead, making breaks of 78 and 115 in the process. However, Robertson managed to restore parity heading into the mid-session, firing in a run of 75 to make it 2-2.
When play resumed it was Robertson who took the lead for the first time, a contribution of 94 edged him 3-2 ahead.
McGill drew level with a break of 75, but it would prove to be his last winning frame of the tie. Robertson blitzed to the line with three frames on the bounce, including runs of 57 and 62.
Robertson said: “Going into the interval I was singing and dancing, because I should have at least been a couple of frames down. Things improved in the next frame or two and from 3-3 to 6-3 I played some pretty good stuff. My long game got a lot better and I fed off the momentum of the crowd, who started getting behind me.
“The only other atmosphere I could compare this to is the one table setup at the Crucible, but even then I don’t think it is like this. This was rowdy and they weren’t afraid to show their displeasure in some of the safety or the frames taking too long. That is a good thing as they want to be entertained. They’ve paid a lot of money to be here and without the fans having the courage to come here with Covid and everything it would be like last year.
“Coming through a match like that, where you don’t play well but produce the goods in the big moments, is a really good sign. I have a few days of practice to hone everything and get things where they should be. I had too much time off over Christmas. I spent two weeks in Norway, which was amazing, but I should have made the more selfish decision and come back early. I got away with it a little bit today. Hopefully I can play really well next match.”