Finals

Neil Robertson Finds Form in Hong Kong

Neil Robertson was approaching somewhere near his best as he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan to lift the inaugural Hong Kong Masters title on Sunday.

Neil Robertson Hong Kong Masters

Robertson said he’d never experienced anything like it, in reference to the crowd and arena. Photo credit: World Snooker

The “Thunder from Down Under” defied a tropical cyclone weather warning that threatened to result in the final being played behind closed doors, to eventually overcome the “Rocket” in front of around 3,000 enthralled spectators at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium.

Robertson collected the tidy sum of £100,000 for the winner’s cheque as he won the last four frames for a 6-3 success, and his first title in 13 months.

The Hong Kong Masters may have only boasted invitational status, but it was as elite as it comes with seven out of the top eight ranked players in the world present alongside O’Sullivan.

Going into the event, Robertson was arguably the player least likely to emerge with the trophy such was his suspect form over the last year or so since his 2016 Riga Masters triumph in Latvia.

The Australian has begun a possibly perilous slide down the rankings and, where it was once the norm to see his name feature at the business end of tournaments, early exits had in fact become regular occurrences in recent times.

Robertson very openly admitted earlier this year to an addiction to gaming, which he believes hindered his performances on the Main Tour with long nights of playing video games taking on more importance than practicing for his full-time profession.

The 35 year-old tamely bowed out of the Crucible in April in the last 16 to conclude a disappointing campaign which have derailed his efforts to ultimately become one of the all-time greats.

This Hong Kong Masters victory might not represent the biggest win of his career but it could be one of the most important.

For it will be interesting to see what kind of confidence boost Robertson experiences with a season full of major championships and lucrative opportunities still to look forward to.

At his best, the Triple Crown champion is easily one of the most dangerous players on the circuit, proven by his hat-trick of wins over runaway world number one Mark Selby, home favourite Marco Fu, and all-time great O’Sullivan in the last few days.

The turning point in the final was definitely frame seven, when O’Sullivan appeared set to establish a 4-3 advantage only to squander a snookers required position to allow his grateful opponent in for the steal.

Robertson didn’t look back and fired in single scoring visits of 68 and 82 to confidently capture the trophy.

For O’Sullivan, it marks yet another loss in a final for the 41 year-old, something which has become curiously more common of late.

The five-time world champion beat Joe Perry to win a record seventh Masters crown in January but was a beaten finalist in two other invitational events in 2016 and a pair of ranking tournaments as well – including the UK Championship.

O’Sullivan is losing to the likes of Robertson, Judd Trump, Mark Selby, and John Higgins in these finals so it’s not as though he’s stumbling against an underdog, but it must be a concern for someone who is more accustomed to getting his name on the silverware when he reaches that stage of the competition.

As for the event itself, the Hong Kong Masters received widespread acclaim from players and fans alike, particularly because of the venue set-up and the incredible atmosphere generated by the enthusiastic crowd, but also for the prestigious feel with only the marquee names in action.

Hopefully something can be staged at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium again in the future, with potentially a wider broadcast available to more easily incorporate viewers from outside China and Hong Kong.

Robertson will certainly wish to return to the scene of his latest a triumph, one which might just reignite his career.

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