Neil Robertson staged a remarkable comeback to oust Mark Selby in the Tour Championship on Tuesday – in doing so, damaging the latter’s top ranking in the sport.
The Australian fought back from a 6-2 first session deficit in the quarter-finals to deny the world number one in a tense deciding frame that lasted more than one hour.
Selby had appeared to be in control when he reversed an early 2-0 deficit with breaks of 103 and 117, before storming ahead with further runs of 123, 93, 65, and 58.
But Robertson, who has won two ranking events this season and finished runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Players Championship earlier in March, never gave up.
The 2010 world champion performed a brinkmanship act that Selby himself has proven to be the master of throughout his career.
It couldn’t have played out in much more dramatic fashion as the entire match, which towards the end swung one way and then the other, ultimately came down to the final black.
Selby narrowly missed a tough double to the centre pocket before Robertson later clinched the pot that sent him through to the last four.
💬 “Somehow I’m talking to you as the winner.”
The possibility of losing 9-2 had crossed his mind, but the 2010 World Champion pulled off a superb comeback from 6-2 down and edged a tense black-ball finish to reach the semi-final stages of the @Coral Tour Championship! pic.twitter.com/LPgaxc4a8u
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) March 20, 2019
The result prolongs the former’s wretched record on home soil of late as he fails to contest the latter stages of most tournaments staged outside China.
As a consequence, his long-held top ranking has been placed in jeopardy and the destiny of the coveted position is now out of the Leicesterman’s hands.
Victory for O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship this week, with a jackpot of £150,000 on offer, would see the five-time world champion return to the summit of the list for the first time since 2010.
While many people seem to forget that the rankings system incorporates a two-year period, it is understandable that quite a few question Selby’s current merits at being credited with the top ranking.
The “Jester” has actually won five of the most lucrative ranking titles in that spell but recently his overall performances have been short of his best.
O’Sullivan’s displays, by contrast, have been extremely consistent – even though he barely enters half of the calendar’s events he has still managed to claim seven ranking titles since October in 2017.
Even if the 43 year-old doesn’t manage to get back to where the majority of fans believe he belongs this week, it’s probable that it’s only a matter of time because Selby has an enormous amount of ranking points to defend from his 2017 China Open and World Championship late-season double.
At any rate, O’Sullivan got his Tour Championship campaign off to a strong start as he manufactured a 6-2 advantage over Stuart Bingham in Llandudno.
For Robertson, meanwhile, his triumph underlines his marked improvement this season and a return to his glory days when he was regularly mixing it with the elite of the game.
The 37 year-old boasts an incredible record of having won at least one piece of silverware in each calendar year since 2006, with his recent Welsh Open glory extending that sequence in 2019 already.
The opening day’s action also saw Judd Trump and Mark Williams begin their clash with the scores tied at 4-4 following the first session.
Both of those battles reach their conclusions on Wednesday while Mark Allen, who is the top seed in the eight-man field after accumulating the most ranking points this season overall, opens his account with Kyren Wilson.