Neil Robertson became the first overseas player to win snooker’s ‘triple crown’ by beating Mark Selby 10-7 in the final of the williamhill.com UK Championship.
Australia’s Robertson completed a remarkable turnaround in the final at the York Barbican by coming from 5-1 down to win nine of the last 11 frames. A devastating burst of break-building in the middle of the match, with three centuries in four frames, helped the 31-year-old to the £150,000 top prize. He has now made 58 tons this season and looks set to smash Judd Trump’s record of 61.
Robertson becomes only the eighth player in snooker history to have won the World and UK Championship and Masters titles – joining Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Terry Griffiths and Alex Higgins. It’s Robertson’s ninth world ranking title, bringing him level on the all-time list with Ding Junhui, John Parrott and Peter Ebdon. Only Hendry, Davis, O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Williams and Jimmy white have won more.
The left-hander also kept going a remarkable sequence of six consecutive ranking event victories for non-British players. He has won two this season – having taken the Wuxi Classic in June – while Ding Junhui has three to his name and Marco Fu the other.
A tournament which started with 128 players finished with the top two in the world rankings battling for the title. Robertson would have surrendered his number one status to Selby if he had lost tonight, but instead he goes into 2014 at the top of the tree.
Selby may be concerned by the number of mistakes he made after surging ahead in the early stages. However, more than anything, this event will be remembered for his magical 147 during yesterday’s semi-final, the 100th official maximum break in snooker history. That was worth a handy £59,000 bonus to go with the Leicester man’s £70,000 runner-up prize.
Selby led 5-3 after the first session and took the first frame tonight to extend his advantage. Robertson then produced a golden spell of cueing and scored 410 points without reply, firing in breaks of 56, 122 and 132.
Having levelled at 6-6, Robertson built a 55-0 lead in frame 13 then finished it off after Selby missed a red to a centre pocket on 22. That gave him the lead for the first time and he capitalised on further errors from Selby in the next to make it 8-6.
Selby opened frame 15 with a break of 42 before missing a red to a top corner. But Robertson’s attempted long red didn’t find its target and Selby was able to add 74 to end a losing sequence of five frames in a row.
The 16th frame was the most dramatic of the match, after Robertson missed an easy pink which would have put him 44 ahead with two reds left. Selby clawed his way back and had a chance to clear when Robertson missed a long pot on the brown. But after taking brown, blue and pink, Selby left a close-range black in the jaws of a top corner, leaving Robertson to tap it in right-handed for 9-7.
Selby built a 36-0 lead in the next but Robertson then took control, and when his chance came he compiled a nerveless 57, which included a fine pot on the penultimate red along the top cushion, to secure the title.
“It’s the most emotional I’ve ever been after winning a title and the first time I’ve had tears in his eyes at the finish,” said Robertson. “To win the triple crown means that I join the really big boys. And it keeps going the incredible run of wins for overseas players.
“Mark is the best safety player in the world and he put me out of my rhythm in the first session, there were times when I went 30 minutes without potting a ball. It was important for me to win the last two frames of the session and he would have been disappointed at 5-3. I knew I had the ability to win three or four frames in a row and when you score heavily it scares your opponent. I was really positive tonight, I was aggressive and I picked up the pace. It worked perfectly.”
Asked about Selby’s black ball miss in frame 16, Robertson added: “He had the black and the white cleaned and maybe that gave time for negative thoughts. With a black like that you have to aim for the far jaw, and he just hit it too thin and it caught the near jaw. I couldn’t believe it, everyone was in shock. I came to the table and decided not to get the long rest out, I just wanted to pot it right-handed then get out of the arena. I was proud of the way i finished the match off from 9-7.”
Robertson’s mother Alison flew to the UK earlier this week to support him, and he added: “Without the help of my mum and dad I wouldn’t be here. We can have a nice Christmas now!”
Selby said: “I’m disappointed by my performance. I played ok this afternoon but the last two frames were key because if I had gone 6-2 up it might have been different. I still had enough chances tonight but I couldn’t take them. Anything half difficult, I didn’t feel comfortable with. Neil played well and deserved to win.”