Neil Robertson ended Ronnie O’Sullivan’s defence of the Dafabet Masters title with a stunning 6-1 victory at the semi-final stage.
World number one Robertson described his 6-1 defeat of Ali Carter in the previous round as one of the best performances of his career, and he continued in the same vein today with a superb display against five-time Masters king and home favourite O’Sullivan. The Rocket’s army of fans at Alexandra Palace were forced to accept that their man was second best as Robertson romped through to a final meeting with Mark Allen or Shaun Murphy. Tomorrow’s best-of-19 final will end with the winner collecting a cheque for £200,000.
O’Sullivan had won 15 consecutive matches and was aiming for a third title on the bounce having captured the Champion of Champions and UK Championship crowns. But he suffered his first ever defeat in a Masters semi-final after ten previous wins at that stage.
Australia’s Robertson, who is gunning for his second Masters crown having lifted the trophy three years ago, made a statement of intent in the opening frame with a break of 100. O’Sullivan looked certain to level until he missed a frame-ball black on 63. Robertson punished him with an excellent 66 clearance. Chigwell’s O’Sullivan also had chances in the third frame but didn’t capitalise and his opponent won it on the colours to go 3-0 up.
O’Sullivan raised hopes of a fight-back with a break of 101, but he couldn’t keep the momentum going after the interval. Robertson’s break of 58 extended his lead, and in frame six he took advantage of a series of missed reds from O’Sullivan to score three breaks in the 20s to go 5-1 ahead.
Robertson’s run of 60 put him in charge of frame seven, and he sealed victory after a safety error from O’Sullivan on the penultimate red.
“Beating Ronnie here is a really special achievement for me,” said 32-year-old Robertson. “Beating Ali Carter was good preparation because the crowd were on his side and I was able to block it out, and it was the same today. It was an amazing atmosphere. That’s why I wanted to have a crack at him in the World Championship final last year, because he’s the only player who can create that kind of atmosphere.
“The turning point was the second frame. I think he was concentrating on getting on the next red and he missed the black, and I made a good clearance. Even though I lost the fourth I felt I’d be the happier player at the interval. I kept playing solid snooker after that. I put Ronnie under pressure early on and took enough of my chances. I’m glad that he was a bit off his game. My safety was really good. If you keep forcing your opponent to do something with the cue ball, maneuvering it around the pack or swinging it off cushions, he’s bound to make mistakes. If you put pressure on someone in any sport they will make mistakes. You have to keep your foot down, you can’t let them back into the match.
“It’s great to be back in the final, my third one here in four years. It’s going to be a tough final, whoever I play. On paper I might be slight favourite, but it’s all about who plays well on the day. It’s nice to be able to chill out tonight and see who I play.”
O’Sullivan said: “Neil played a great game and had me in lots of trouble. I missed a lot of balls and made a lot of mistakes. I knew it was coming eventually because I’ve been scraping through matches. The last time I played good consistent stuff was here and at the Welsh Open last season. Since then I’ve probably only played two good matches – the rest of the time I’ve just been digging in. Neil played well enough to expose my weaknesses – he took me apart.
“I’m not the player I was 18 months ago, but I think I can get it back by playing in more tournaments. You can’t go missing for five or six frames, as I am doing. I had years of that, and it makes things tough.”