Former European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson enjoyed a fine 21/22 campaign, having narrowly averted relegation from the circuit just a year ago. Now the Bexhill cueman feels reacclimatised with snooker’s biggest stages.
Robertson needed to win his first round tie at 2021 World Championship qualifying to remain a professional and trailed Zhao Jianbo 3-0. However, he showed great fortitude to rally and secure a hugely significant 6-5 win.
Since then, the 36-year-old has taken full advantage of his reprieve. He ended the season in 14th position on the one-year list and qualified for the elite 16-man Players Championship. In that event he scored a 6-4 win over four-time World Champion John Higgins, before losing to Neil Robertson in the last four.
In total Robertson reached two semi-finals, bowed out in one quarter-final and lost three last 16 ties during the season. He believes that regularly appearing on the main table against the sport’s finest will prove to be a crucial platform for future success.
“I made big steps forward last season. I played more TV matches than ever before and I’ve always thought that the more you do something, the better you get at it. Even things like interviews and being around a television environment is something you need to get used to. I am getting more confident about the main arena and I am hopeful I can kick on with it next season,” said world number 25 Robertson.
“If you keep winning your matches, you are going to bump into all of the big names. I faced Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Mark Williams, John Higgins and Ding Junhui last season. Once you get those matches under your belt and get a feeling for it, you get more comfortable with the stage you are on. If I can start believing I belong in these big match situations, then I can really progress. That is what I’ve struggled with over the years. Until you start getting there and doing it then you don’t truly believe it. Last season was very important for me.”
One of the big factors in Robertson’s success has been the help of mind coach AP O’Neill. He has elected to continue working with him this season. Robertson has stated that an improved mentality was an important factor in maintaining his professional status 12 months ago. He believes that the psychology of sport is something which too many players overlook.
Robertson stated: “I think a lot of players dismiss working on the mental side too easily and I was one of them. I thought I could do it my way. I’ve never really got on with coaching, I play differently to a lot of other people and coaches tend to change lots of things. Sometimes change is what you need but I’ve never got on with it on that side. Working with a head coach is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but due to laziness I never did that. It can help a lot of players, but you have to want to do it and believe in it. If you aren’t going to give it a chance and get into it then it wont work. They aren’t magicians, you need to do the work, take it in and then put it into practice on the match table. It is all geared towards when you are out there in the arena. I still have to pot the balls, but if it can help me two percent or more I am up for it.”
Despite the success of Robertson’s season, it ended on a sombre note. He showed great fortitude and courage by electing to compete at World Championship qualifying at a difficult time for his family. His partner Hayley’s father, John Perna, sadly passed away in the build up to the tournament. Robertson was determined to attempt to qualify for the event in his memory. However, he fell just short against Chris Wakelin in the final round.
“I was debating whether to play in it or not because of the funeral. That was put back, so I could make it. I wanted to get through for him, but it wasn’t to be. Throughout the whole season I was using things from my mind coach to control myself, but in that last match I started getting frustrated. Everything went out of the window, my emotions were high and I was frustrated in that game. I tried as hard as I could to get through and do it for John. I spent a lot of time with the family after the World Championship instead.
“It was tough and it just puts things into perspective really. It was totally sudden and out of the blue. He was 65 and fit as a fiddle. He was up in the morning, sat down in his chair and didn’t wake up an hour later. It was devastating as it just happened suddenly. It is hard for the kids to understand as well. It has been a tough last four months. You can’t move on but we are trying to deal with it.”
Robertson with partner Hayley and children Poppy and Frankie.
Following a difficult period for his family, Robertson is hoping to return to the winner’s circle when the season gets underway. He is keen to prove that his victory at the 2018 European Masters was not a one off and push for further success to do his family proud.
“It is important, not just to shut people up who say it was a fluke. The most important thing is to do it for my family, I want to do that more than anything. People might say that if he has won an event then so should I, but at the end of the day I have the trophy at home. I loved the feeling and I would love to do it again. It will take a lot of hard work to put myself in those positions. If I do the right things, then hopefully a tournament soon will go my way. It was meant to be in Belgium that week.
“My two children were both in Belgium for the European Masters final. They look back on the pictures and it would be lovely to have them both there for another big final. They would understand now as they are a bit older and it would be great for them to have a little day in the spotlight themselves.”