Neil Robertson reached his 30th ranking event final thanks to an excellent break of 92 in the deciding frame of a 6-5 win over Mark Selby at the Matchroom.Live English Open.
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Australia’s Robertson goes through to Sunday’s final to face Judd Trump or John Higgins over 17 frames for the £70,000 top prize and the Steve Davis Trophy. He is aiming for his 19th ranking title and victory would also make him the first player to win three Home Nations events.
For the first time ever in a ranking event, all four semi-finalists have completed the Triple Crown, and they have also all held the world number one position. The quartet have 83 ranking titles between them. Fittingly, the first semi-final lived up to its billing as Selby and Robertson served up an enthralling contest.
It started in cagey fashion, Robertson taking two scrappy frames, then the heavy scoring began as defending champion Selby rattled in breaks of 117, 58 and 73 for 2-2. World number three Robertson hit back with 58 and 134 to lead 4-2 then Selby, ranked fourth, took frame seven with a run of 70.
Robertson’s 129 put him 5-3 ahead and he could have crossed the finish line in frame nine but ran out of position on the last red. Selby got the better of a safety battle on the green and halved his deficit. Early in frame ten Robertson had another opportunity but made only 19 before missing the blue to a centre pocket, and his opponent’s 51 made it 5-5.
A slice of fortune went Robertson’s way in the decider as he missed a long red but left the balls safe. He later slotted in a long red then potted a risky brown to a centre pocket, and went on to make his match winning break.
“It was a fantastic match,” said 38-year-old Robertson. “Mark was as tenacious as ever. I had most of the run of the ball, we had a joke about it at the end. But you have to take advantage when it goes your way. I was lucky in the last frame when I missed the long red and didn’t leave Mark anything.
“Then he had a chance but he rolled up to the yellow to snooker me. When I had a similar chance I went for the brown because I’d rather lose a match going for a pot than playing safe.
“It will be a great final tomorrow. Judd and John are equally difficult opponents but present different challenges. Judd is more aggressive while John is very crafty. I’ll just try to play to my strengths.”
Selby, who lost the chance to become the first player in 30 years to win the first two ranking events of the season, said: “It just felt as though no matter what I did today, the Gods were against me. Neil played well and got the run of the ball. I was probably destined not to win – everything I did just seemed to go wrong, and everything Neil did seemed to go right.
“I don’t feel like I played fantastic this week. I’ve dug in and grafted. The good thing is I’m not playing well and still winning matches, which I wasn’t doing a couple of years ago.”