Australia’s Neil Robertson battled back from 4-2 down to defeat Norwegian Kurt Maflin 5-4 and reach the semi-finals of the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff.
Robertson, who lifted the title at the 2007 Welsh Open, has had an eventful week in Cardiff having already made a 147 in his opening round encounter with Jordan Brown. Following victory this evening, the 2010 World Champion remains in the hunt for a 15th career ranking title.
It was a gut-wrenching loss for Maflin, who had already enjoyed success at the Motorpoint Arena prior to this week. The world number 49 also appeared in the quarter-finals at the Cardiff venue back in 2017. He will pocket £10,000 for his run to the last eight this time around.
Maflin charged out of the blocks this evening with breaks of 63, 104 and 74 to move into a 3-0 advantage. Robertson kept himself in touch before the interval with contribution of 91 to make it 3-1.
When the pair returned, 37-year-old Robertson claimed a tight fifth frame to draw within one, before Maflin responded in turn to regain his two-frame advantage at 4-2. Breaks of 69 and a stunning 136 saw the Australian force a decider, where high drama ensued.
With a 10-0 advantage, Maflin inadvertently clipped the black into the bottom right pocket after potting a long range red, in a piece of unforeseeable poor fortune. Robertson ruthlessly pounced on that piece of bad luck to compile a break of 67, which sealed frame and match.
Robertson said: “I thought overall it was a terrific match. Both of us scored really heavily and I am gutted for Kurt at the end there. What a way to lose. He potted a really good long red and I don’t know how he knocked the black in.
“It was about concentration and being brutal in the moment, because when I came to the table I was thinking what a way for him to lose if I win the frame from here. On a personal level I love the guy. We spend Christmas together in Norway. I just had to tell my head to shut up and pot the balls.”
Iran’s Hossein Vafaei will face Robertson in the last four after demolishing Scotland’s Scott Donaldson 5-1.
It will be Vafaei’s second appearance in a ranking event semi-final, following his trip to the last four at the 2017 China Open where he defeated Judd Trump in the quarters. This evening Vafaei clinically took advantage of his opportunities.
After losing the first frame, he won five on the bounce with breaks 92, 76, 75, 62 and 54. Robertson and Vafaei will do battle tomorrow evening at 7pm, with Stuart Bingham and Joe O’Connor contesting the other semi-final at 1pm.