Neil Robertson has won the 2018 Riga Masters after a 5-2 victory over Jack Lisowski in the final in Latvia on Sunday.
The Australian took advantage of a poor display from his opponent, who was featuring in a ranking event final for the first time in his career, to prevail in the Latvian capital city for the second time in three years.
Triumph for Robertson represents the fourth time in six campaigns that the Melbourne man has bagged the opening ranking event of a season, while his 14th ranking title also prolongs a remarkable streak in which the 36 year-old has lifted silverware in every calendar year since 2006.
The final was a mostly turgid affair as Robertson produced a controlled performance to see off the weak challenge from Lisowski.
The latter had looked impressive in 4-0 and 5-1 victories against Scottish duo Graeme Dott and Stephen Maguire respectively but his trademark attacking prowess deserted him in the showdown for glory.
Robertson, who edged Ricky Walden in the quarter-finals before hammering Stuart Carrington 5-0 in the last four, won two scrappy frames to establish an early advantage before a 117, his sixth ton of the weekend and eighth in the tournament overall, firmly cemented his position as favourite.
Lisowski, to his credit, never gave up and dug deep with some good safety play to get a frame on the board in a long fourth.
But the “Dude” paid the price for numerous missed opportunities and an inability to rediscover his scoring boots in what was the biggest match of his career to date.
The pair traded the next two frames before Robertson ground out the victory in the seventh, one of many that were long and scrappy throughout the encounter.
Despite picking up titles in the Hong Kong Masters and the Scottish Open in 2017, Robertson’s form over the last couple of years hasn’t been anywhere near the level that we’ve come to expect.
The former world number one briefly dropped outside the world’s top 16 towards the end of last year, which resulted in him missing out on a place in the prestigious Masters.
However, boosted by a long break after the World Snooker Championship, Robertson had an opportunity to bed in a new cue before the outset of the 2018/19 term and, just like he has done in several other recent seasons, the 2010 world champion has got his campaign off to a flier.
Robertson doesn’t make any significant gains up the rankings table as he was already defending the points that he had won from previously winning the Riga Masters in 2016.
Yet, the confidence that he must possess now will surely stand him in good stead heading into another hectic year on the Main Tour.
Robertson pockets £50,000 for his exploits in Eastern Europe, which will go a long way in safeguarding his position in the likes of the lucrative Shanghai Masters in September, the Masters at the Alexandra Palace, and the Ladbrokes Series towards the back end of the campaign to boot.
For Lisowski, it was a disappointing conclusion to what was an otherwise terrific weekend for the Cheltenham cueist.
The 27 year-old has been tipped by many to make the necessary, and perhaps overdue, step up into the higher echelons of the sport and, despite a poor performance in the final, appeared to suggest that he’ll now be a regular contender at the business end of events.
Lisowski suffered a humiliating 13-1 defeat to John Higgins in the second round of the World Championship at the Crucible in April but has bounced back strongly from that and is edging ever closer to a place in the top 20 in the world rankings for the first time.
But it’s Robertson who accepts the plaudits on this occasion and it’ll be interesting to see if the Triple Crown winner can begin to challenge in the bigger events again over the upcoming weeks and months.
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