Neil Robertson made a strong start to his Dafabet Masters campaign with a 6-3 win over Ali Carter, setting up a mouth-watering quarter-final with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Robertson’s form has been inconsistent in recent months and he lost in the first round of the UK Championship in November. The Australian regained sharpness at the Championship League last week and will look to add to his silverware collection in the second half of the season.
First he faces a potentially epic clash against crowd favourite O’Sullivan at Alexandra Palace on Thursday at 1pm (tickets still available, click here for details). Their last Masters meeting came at the semi-final stage in 2015 when Robertson won 6-1.
World number seven Robertson won the opening frame tonight with a break of 85, and he led 49-0 in the second only for Carter to take it with an 83 clearance. Robertson then regained control of the contest and won the next three frames with runs of 78, 49 and 69.
Carter fought back to 4-3 thanks to breaks of 73 and 93. But his hopes of an upset were soon ended as Robertson took the next two frames with 73 and 117. In fact in the last frame he could have made 144 to set a formidable target for the £10,000 high break prize, but he ran out of position on the final yellow.
“I enjoy playing Ali, he’s a wonderful player,” said 2012 Masters champion Robertson. “He scores heavy when he’s in and he plays the game properly. I’m better against top players who don’t make it scrappy. I was really put under pressure at 4-3, the way he came back. To finish it off the last two frames the way I did was very pleasing.
“I was pretty annoyed I didn’t make the high break, but I was glad all the hard work that I did over Christmas worked and to put it in a performance like that was really satisfying.
“Usually I have a break over Christmas for about three weeks. But I kept practising. I was in Norway so I practised on Kurt Maflin’s table, and then played the Championship League, heading into this. I made a lot of big breaks there so I knew my game was in really good shape. My long potting’s never been better, my scoring’s never been better. It’s just a matter of being patient and eventually the performance will come.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere against Ronnie. It’s different playing him here than to the Crucible. The amount of support he gets and the crowd’s encouraged will be a bit noisier here which is fantastic. It’s a wonderful venue, an amazing tournament with incredible history. I’m going to have to be at my best to beat him on Thursday.”