Neil Robertson won a ranking event in China for the first time by beating Mark Selby 10-6 in the final of the Bank of Beijing China Open.
Australia’s Robertson won six consecutive frames to lead 6-1 after the first session, and survived a flurry from Selby to nurse home his lead and win his seventh ranking title.
It’s the 31-year-old’s first ranking title since the World Open in September 2010 – though he has won the Masters and PTC events since – and brings to an end a run of defeats in finals for Robertson. He has been one of the most consistent players on the circuit this season but was denied at the last hurdle at the International Championship, the Masters and the PTC Grand Finals.
Robertson, who is based in Cambridge, is the tenth different winner in ten ranking events so far this season, and will now go into the Betfair World Championship full of confidence as he aims for his second Crucible crown.
The left-hander earned a cheque for £85,000 and is up to number two in the world rankings, behind Selby, with Judd Trump pushed down to third.
Leicester’s Selby lost for the sixth time in nine ranking finals and missed out on his fifth title of the season having won the UK Championship, the Masters and two PTC events.
Earlier in the tournament, he also missed out on a £23,500 bonus for a 147 maximum break when he failed to pot the final black. Nevertheless it was an impressive week for the 29-year-old and he will also go to the Crucible in the knowledge that his game is in good shape.
Selby took the opening frame with breaks of 42 and 58 before Robertson made 50 and 91 to go 2-1 up then edged a 40-minute fourth frame on the last black.
He cleared from yellow to black to win the fifth and got the better of two more scrappy frames to make it 6-1 when the first session was pulled off.
Selby looked a different player from the restart and rattled in breaks of 81, 125 and 66 to close to 6-4. But Robertson rose to the challenge, making a 110 to stop his opponent’s momentum then nicking a fragmented 12th frame for 8-4 before a smooth 90 brought him to the brink of victory.
Still Selby battled and runs of 116 and 63 helped him close to 9-6. But an early 45 put Robertson in control of frame 16 and he finally sealed it on the colours.
“Having won a title, it’s my best season so far, going into the World Championship,” said Robertson. “I’d lost in a few finals recently. Today was a titantic struggle, a real battle of determination. The first session was tough, Mark’s a very good safety player and I had to work for everything.
“Tonight he played well and up until 9-6 it was very good snooker. I was relieved to win the last frame because he kept getting snookers and I started to fear the worst, until I potted a good long green.
“I read what Shaun Murphy said about Mark after the semi-finals yesterday and he explained the way Mark plays perfectly. If someone doesn’t get in early in the frame, then neither player will have a good chance for the rest of the frame, all you can do is make 10, 20 or 30. I was really pleased with my safety today, I matched Mark as well as I could do.”
Selby said: “I came into this tournament on the back of some bad results so I didn’t know what to expect. In patches during the week I played ok. Today I was poor in the first session and Neil capitalised on my mistakes. I’m really proud of the way I fought back in the second session. I put up a good fight but it just wasn’t to be in the end.
“For the last two days I haven’t been feeling great and haven’t eaten much. I’ve only managed to eat bananas and drink water. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse because Neil played a lot better than me today and deserved to win.
“I can take a lot of positives from the week and go to the World Championship full of confidence. I always enjoy coming to China, I have great support here and I look forward to coming back again.”
China Open champions since 2005:
2005 Ding Junhui
2006 Mark Williams
2007 Graeme Dott
2008 Stephen Maguire
2009 Peter Ebdon
2010 Mark Williams
2011 Judd Trump
2012 Peter Ebdon
2013 Neil Robertson