Neil Robertson underlined his status as snooker’s world number one by beating John Higgins 10-7 in the final of the Wuxi Classic.
Australia’s 31-year-old Robertson made it back-to-back ranking titles in the Far East having won the China Open in Beijing in April. He has now won eight ranking events, just one behind John Parrott and Peter Ebdon on the all-time list.
The left-hander from Melbourne, based in Cambridge during the season, enjoyed a superb spell of six consecutive frames in the middle of the final against Higgins, coming from 5-2 down to lead 8-5. His Scottish opponent rallied briefly before Robertson sealed victory in frame 17 to secure the £80,000 top prize.
Robertson took over from Mark Selby as world number one at the recent Bulgarian Open – despite losing 4-1 to Higgins in the final – and is now looking for a long spell as top dog having stretched his lead by winning the first full ranking event of the 2013/14 season, staged in China’s Jiangsu Province.
The first four frames of a high-quality final were shared, Robertson making breaks of 61 and 91 while Higgins compiled 78 and 56. Higgins, chasing his 26th ranking title, then pulled away with 70, 93 and 82 to lead 5-2. But he scored just 12 points in the next four frames as Robertson took them all with top runs of 52, 113 and 57.
In the crucial 12th frame, Robertson came from 52-6 down to win it on the final black, then he went 8-5 up with a break of 59. Higgins won the next with a 66 only for Robertson to dominate frame 15 to make it 9-6. Higgins raised hopes of a fight-back when he won the next on the colours, but Robertson’s run of 65 in the 17th gave him the title.
“It’s unbelievable to win two titles in a row in China because a couple of years ago I would have been happy just to win back-to-back matches here,” said 2010 World Champion Robertson, who now heads to his homeland with a dream of winning the Australian Goldfields Open, which runs from July 8-14. “This is easily one of the proudest moments of my career.
“I always knew I could win tournaments in the UK but there was a question mark over whether I could deal with playing in China. The playing conditions here this week have been the best I have ever played in. I’ll go to the Shanghai Masters in September full of confidence and there’s no reason why I can’t win three in a row in China.
“I’ve made a change to my game this season, I’m playing a lot quicker, especially compared to the match against Robert Milkins at the World Championship when I got too negative and played too slowly. This week I have attacked and played quickly. It helps get the crowd on your side if you are more fluent and I’m going to stick with it.
“John was a hero of mine growing up so just to play him in a final was an honour, and to beat him is a dream come true. I have so much respect for him, I think whoever ends up with more world titles between him and Ronnie O’Sullivan will be considered the greatest player of all time. I’m very proud to have played that well against him in a final and it’s a moment I will always remember.
“To go to Australia as world number one and Wuxi Classic champion is fantastic and hopefully it will help give the tournament in Bendigo extra publicity. A couple of people came over from Australia to watch Vinnie Calabrese and I in this tournament so I want to say thanks to them, and to all the Chinese fans for their support.”
Higgins said: “From 5-2, Neil played very well and showed why he is number one. He froze me out until 8-5. My safety game was very bad and I was leaving him with his hand on the table a lot. You can’t afford to do that against Neil because his long potting is so good. I’ve got to take the positives from the week because I feel as if I am hitting the ball well again.”