‘Not too late’ – Can Robertson solve the great Crucible mystery?

C’mon Aussie C’mon. It is difficult to decide which bloke had a more productive weekend defending the honour of Australian sport: Travis Head, Neil Robertson or Alex Hawke?

The rampaging Robbo has a case with his snooker cue. The Melburnian left-hander with the voracious appetite for potting balls was watched like a Hawk in ending a uniquely fruitful few days at the Masters in London sinking avocado tequila shots after his shots at glory. Heady times indeed.

The Masters

‘One of the best weeks of my life’ – Hawkins positive for rest of season after Masters final loss

19 HOURS AGO

Robertson’s hawkish 10-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the 48th final of the sport’s second most coveted event was written in the stars as much as they are etched on his country’s national flag after his miraculous 6-5 triumph over Mark Williams in the semi-final was won against the head.

Robertson – a fabulously strutting shot-maker ferociously dubbed ‘The Thunder from Down Under’ – is Australia’s Don Bradman of the green baize. It is just a pity that the peacock of potting’s pristine play has never been celebrated back in Oz as much as it is in Blighty.

Robertson looked as doomed as an English Test cricketer in the Ashes as he trailed 4-1 and 5-3 to the triple world champion Williams on Saturday before somehow emerging from Down Under the Alexandra Palace floorboards by popping in the final black having successfully chased down two snookers with only eight balls left up.

This all unfolded after Williams had seemingly reached his first final since winning the shooting match for a second time in 2003 by compiling a lovely 67 before a miraculous escape on the final red.

“Never give up, never ever give up,” bellowed Robertson. “Any kids watching, does not matter how it looks, just don’t give up.”

It had to be seen to be believed, but when you engage in such an outrageous act of sporting escapology, you don’t waste the opportunity to shake off the straitjacket when you don the old waistcoat a day later chasing the fabled Paul Hunter Trophy and a handy £250,000.

‘This is incredible snooker’ – Robertson beats Williams to reach Masters final

From the baggy green to that tournament-defining pot on the green against Williams, lifting the Masters for a second time a full decade after his first was as heroic a moment as Head being named Australia’s man of the Ashes after the left-hander’s Hobart century saw him finish top run scorer.

Of course, centuries have become Robertson’s stock-in-trade with 812 made to lie fourth behind Ronnie O’Sullivan (1131), John Higgins (864) and Judd Trump (829) in the all-time list. He continues to hold the all-time seasonal record of 103 tons set way back in the 2013/14 season. In snooker years, it feels like a lifetime ago.

Robertson helped himself to six centuries in wins over Anthony McGill, O’Sullivan, Williams and Hawkins as the latest feverish Masters was fought out before a frazzled 2,200 crowd a year after the pandemic forced it behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.

“So many people have said they’ve never seen anything like my deciding frame with Mark Williams in sport, let alone snooker,” said Robertson.

I was absolutely dead and buried and all of a sudden it was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

He reserved two century knocks and eight runs over 50 in his coronation at the palace against Hawkins, who at least avoided the sense of desolation that struck him in shipping 10 straight frames to O’Sullivan in a 10-1 flogging in the 2016 final.

Heartening wins over world No. 1 Mark Selby and No. 2 Trump will do little to deflate his sense of well-being.

There is no shame in finishing second to Robertson in such a mood, but a top effort of 69 was never going to trouble the thought process of a ravenous opponent with more survival instincts than Bush Tucker man in the Northern Territory outside of Yorkshire.

Neil Robertson and family with the Masters trophy

Image credit: Other Agency

Robertson is a likeable, straight-talking character who does not shirk a question. He speaks freely about the moments that have shaped him as a human when he is not taking his cue, ranging from wife Mille’s vexing mental health issues, his tortuous gaming addiction and almost hitting skid row in a Melbourne job queue in 2003 after somehow failing at snooker first time round.

Thankfully for the wider health of the game at which he excels, he seems to be at one with snooker after overcoming the worrying problem of pulsatile tinnitus in his ears which prompts dizziness as his defence of the UK title saw him lose 6-2 to John Astley in the first round last month. On the table, he has never been scared of dizzying heights.

At his self-assured best, Robertson can move as rapidly as ‘Steady’ Eddie Charlton, Australia’s most famous plodder, who seemed to play safe with safety in mind. Rust moved quicker than the slothful 1975 world finalist on the charge.

Therein perhaps lies the key to Robertson’s victory at the Masters that should provide him with a greenprint, so to speak, for his future on the cusp of turning 40 in February as he bids to find the key to the Crucible door.

‘Fantastic hearing London cheer again’ – Robertson praises crowd after Masters win

When Robertson avoids being dragged into the snooker swamplands, he tends to prosper which is illustrated by winning some sort of elite competition every year for the past 17 years.

For a player of such natural ability and attacking instinct, a cue sport thoroughbred like Phar Lap at the Melbourne Cup, it remains an oddity, and some might argue an underachievement, that he has only reached one World Championship semi-final since conquering the Crucible Theatre in 2010.

He has endured some baffling times in Sheffield in failing to shake off some battle-hardened combatants, most visibly in the quarter-finals over the past three years in losing to ultimate match players John Higgins, Selby and Kyren Wilson, as pre-tournament expectations rapidly become much ado about nothing at the theatre.

Hawkins and Robertson walk out to raucous atmosphere in evening session

“I don’t like the venue, from a technical point of view it’s very difficult for me to walk into my shot properly, it’s actually almost impossible to do,” said Robertson.

To get to the one-table set-up I need to negotiate that and it’s something that I have to work on.

When Robbo slows up, he tends to dry up.

His average shot time is just inside the top 50 of the World Snooker Tour on 23.40, but he was at his deadliest when he just let himself go in London.

He compiled 102, 52 and 83 to remain in the fight with Williams, who enjoyed flukes that would have crushed weaker spirits, but was down to 17 seconds in running in 95 in the ninth frame and hovered just above 13 seconds during a match-levelling 119 in the 10th.

The need for ‘The Thunder’ to make haste while the sun doesn’t shine is perhaps greater for the Victoria man because it allows him to perform at the peak of his powers.

He won’t get any better as O’Sullivan himself pointed out as a Eurosport pundit during the Masters final because he has an almost watertight all-round game, but he can be wiser with his choices in altering the narrative. All the greats are armed with intuition and Robertson fits snugly into that category.

When his speed of thought is behind speed of shot, he tends to lose his way. Especially at the World Championship when one bad session can prove a tournament-ending experience full of regret. Time to overthink can be a true burden on the baize.

He has cited the work of ageless American icon Tom Brady in flourishing at 44 in the pursuit of an eighth Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in the NFL.

“It’s not too late to become a three or four-time world champion. Look at Tom Brady, he is a massive inspiration,” he said.

When you have people like that carrying the flag you can achieve anything well into your 40s. You just have to stay confident and keep believing.

Nobody is suggesting Robertson should always play with more pace than Pat Cummins thundering down the wicket, but there is a clear route out of the potting perdition that Sheffield has provided. The need for speed is obvious.

Robertson at the Crucible remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma in the great theatrical TV sport. Like an actor at the Crucible forgetting his lines during an amateur production, being reduced to the role of bit-part player on the main stage remain one of snooker’s great mysteries. Perhaps the greatest.

Robertson’s final and ultimate challenge in snooker is transporting his Masters class to the World Championship. Amid the masterful elation of tequila away from Ally Pally, it remains a genuine head-scratcher that might finally have an answer.

Desmond Kane

NEIL ROBERTSON: HOW HE MASTERED THE FIELD

  • Round 1: Neil Robertson 6-3 Anthony McGill
  • Quarter-finals: Neil Robertson 6-4 Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • Semi-finals: Neil Robertson 6-5 Mark Williams
  • Final: Neil Robertson 10-4 Barry Hawkins

The Masters

‘It is about balancing and doing what works for you’ – Robertson

20 HOURS AGO

The Masters

Hawkins misses walk-on cue due to crowd noise

A DAY AGO

Robertson's strength of character in a tournament that was a triumph for world snooker – Dave Hendon

There is a quote attributed – as most quotes tend to be – to Winston Churchill, which defines success as “going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.”

Neil Robertson has had his share of low moments during a long career but his capture of the Masters title on Sunday night was sweet reward for a player who mixes sunny optimism with a formidable all round game.

For Robertson, the glass is usually half full, if not overflowing. He has always had a gift for putting setbacks to one side and looking for positives, which may explain why he has been able to extend his remarkable sequence of winning a title of some sort every calendar year since his maiden victory. The run began in 2006 and now stands at 17 years and counting.

The Masters

‘One of the best weeks of my life’ – Hawkins positive for rest of season after Masters final loss

15 HOURS AGO

The most valuable commodity anyone has is their time. Robertson was prepared at a young age to sacrifice precious time with his family in Australia to pursue his dream of becoming a top snooker professional. In doing so, he has become a great of the sport.

Some of those early years must have been lonely and uncertain. It takes strength of character to ascend to the summit of any sport, but Robertson had considerable challenges, not least financial, which make his story special.

He grew up in a Melbourne snooker club run by his father. In those days, winning pocket change to buy a can of soft drink was as ambitious as he got.

Improvements came rapidly and Robertson turned professional at 16. He came to the UK, possessing a raw talent but out of his depth. He was relegated on his birthday and went back to Australia with his snooker adventure seemingly over. One morning he went to the local job centre. The queue was long, which gave him time to think. He knew he was good at snooker, he knew the odds were loaded against him but he wanted to make a go of it.

He won the world under 21 title, re-joined the tour and settled in Cambridge, which became a base from which to work on improving all aspects of his game. Watching him celebrating after the final on Sunday with the family he has made – his wife, Mille, and their children, Alexander and Penelope – would have melted the coldest of hearts.

The final was not the classic we may have wished for but Robertson’s victory still seemed a fitting end to a truly special week on the green baize.

The Masters was a triumph for World Snooker Tour, who brilliantly staged a first class event which foregrounded the game as a thoroughly modern sport, closer to the ATP Tour tennis finals than the average snooker tournament.

Players fell over themselves to praise the set-up and large, enthusiastic audiences created the impression that this was the hottest ticket in town.

The lesson from Ally Pally is that snooker doesn’t need gimmicks to thrive. It needs more well promoted tournaments in proper venues. It needs events to feel like occasions.

Judd Trump, the leading moderniser among the players, has long believed the sport can make more of itself, particularly in connecting with younger fans. He finds the formal dress code old fashioned, has various ideas for how snooker can improve its image and is annoyed by a perceived lack of interest from the powers that be. “No one seems to want to listen or pay attention to what players have to say,” Trump told Metro online last week.

The reality for WST is that opinions amongst the players differ wildly, usually depending on where they are ranked and therefore what is best for them personally. For instance, many down the rankings are more worried about the distribution of prize money than what they are wearing.

Charged with promoting the professional tour, WST must also be mindful of the wishes of broadcasters and sponsors who are after all bankrolling the circuit. Players do not always appreciate the demands made by these entities, although they often benefit from them.

Even so, Trump’s zeal for innovation cannot be faulted, regardless of whether you agree with his specific ideas. After he played in the US Open 9-ball pool event last summer he travelled to Seattle for a snooker exhibition, showcasing the game in an untapped market. The exhibition shots he routinely plays have penetrated the timeline scrolling of more casual sports followers.

Last year, he attracted the considerable ire of traditional snooker fans by suggesting the World Championship had outgrown the Crucible. This is sacrilegious talk for many but reflects Trump’s view that snooker should be more confident in its ambitions for growth.

Judd Trump in his Masters semi-final against Barry Hawkins

Image credit: Eurosport

There are few more ambitious than Barry Hearn, the irrepressible businessman who saved the professional game from a slow death when he took over the reins of WST in 2010. He has retired as chairman but remains Matchroom president and a hands-on presence across all its sports. He was in the arena after Sunday’s final beaming from ear to ear, rightly proud of his team for a job well done.

Hearn is 73 but young in his outlook and has embraced the modern online world. There was a time when ‘social media’ at snooker tournaments meant getting hammered in the hotel bar with journalists. In recent times, WST has built up a substantial following across its social platforms. Its new TikTok account has become an instant hit, even if many of the old guard think this is a reference to a shot-clock.

These are avenues that did not exist in the past but which are vital to the future. They bring new sources of revenue into the game and appeal to a younger demographic.

All of this is important but what ultimately sells the game is the game itself. Put the best players in the world in an imposing venue in a major city and snooker shines. What we witnessed at Alexandra Palace was a sport making the most of its potential.

Not every event has the advantages of the history enjoyed by the Masters, but the aspiration should be to give the rest of the circuit a similar uplift.

Trump lost in the semi-finals but was still radiant with praise for the week, tweeting: “Apart from the 2011 world champs I think that was the best week of snooker I’ve ever experienced… Snooker is on the up.”

As for Robertson, he can be rightly proud of his latest triumph. His journey to the top is summed up by the manner in which he won his semi-final against Mark Williams following one of the most extraordinary deciding frames ever seen at the Masters.

Afterwards, emotionally spent but still resilient, the Australian uttered words which have underpinned his whole career: “Never give up.”

Churchill himself couldn’t have put it better.

The Masters

The moment Neil Robertson won the Masters

15 HOURS AGO

The Masters

‘It is about balancing and doing what works for you’ – Robertson

16 HOURS AGO

Snooker Shoot-Out 'is great and horrible at the same time' – Dale

Snooker switches gears on Thursday, with the high-octane nature of the Shoot-Out following on from Neil Robertson’s Triple Crown win in the Masters.

The 12th edition of the Shoot-Out takes place at the Morningside Arena in Leicester, with the event live on Eurosport, and with it now being a ranking event it takes on added significance.

Snooker purists are not big fans of the one-frame, 10-minute format – but the crowd lap it up and those who take part thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Scottish Open

O’Sullivan survives sloppy start to beat Dale and progress to second round

06/12/2021 AT 16:43

Dominic Dale is now well known for his work in the Eurosport commentary box, but he will dust off his cue this week – for an event he won in 2014.

Dale has admitted his recollection is a bit of a blur on account of a late-night celebration, but is looking forward to the cut-and-thrust of battle.

When asked about his memories of his victory on Eurosport, Dale said: “A rather late night afterwards.

“It is a great, fun event and suits my slightly extrovert personality. It’s a tournament made for me really.

“It is a tournament where you are out of your comfort zone.

“There is a terrific amount of pressure and just half a mistake, or something happens that does not work out, you can not play another shot, a fluke from your opponent. All these things build to create a great deal of pressure.

“It is great and horrible at the same time. It is a test, but I am looking forward to it.”

– – –

Stream the Shoot-Out and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

Gibraltar Open

Bingham cruises into second round at Gibraltar Open

03/03/2021 AT 12:10

Shoot Out

Higgins battles past Donaldson as Astley beats Evans

05/02/2021 AT 23:10

'One of the best weeks of my life' – Hawkins positive for rest of season after Masters final loss

Barry Hawkins is looking forward to the rest of the season with relish after a “great week” culminated in defeat to Neil Robertson in the final of the Masters.

Hawkins went into the evening session trailing by two frames, but was blown away as Robertson went into overdrive at Alexandra Palace.

It was an excellent run from Hawkins, who beat the top two in the world, Judd Trump and Mark Selby on the way to the final, and it followed up his semi-final appearance at the UK Championship.

The Masters

Hawkins misses walk-on cue due to crowd noise

3 HOURS AGO

There was disappointment in not getting his hands on the trophy, but he conceded Robertson was a better player and is looking forward to the remainder of the campaign.

“I am not too disappointed,” Hawkins said on Eurosport. “I have lost in a final and that is disappointing, but I have had a great week. Probably one of the best weeks of my life.

“The atmosphere has been unbelievable all week, I played some amazing matches, but I made too many mistakes today and you can’t do that against Neil.

“I have got to take the positives.

“I played some good stuff, take the positives and crack on for the rest of the season.”

– – –

Stream the Shoot-Out and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

The Masters

‘If he catches fire the match takes on a different dynamic’ – O’Sullivan

5 HOURS AGO

The Masters

Robertson crushes Hawkins to win Paul Hunter Trophy for second time

7 HOURS AGO

'It is about balancing and doing what works for you' – Robertson

Neil Robertson feels his run to his second Masters title is one of the achievements of his career, and believes he has found the perfect work-life balance.

Robertson overwhelmed Barry Hawkins in the evening session at Alexandra Palace to run out a comprehensive 10-4 winner.

It is Robertson’s fifth Triple Crown title, and after beating Anthony McGill, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and Hawkins, he says it is one of his career highs.

The Masters

Jimmy White vs Judd Trump’s Eurosport Masters shot of the championship pot

AN HOUR AGO

“With the players I have had to beat it has got to be right up there,” Robertson said on Eurosport.

The fans at Alexandra Palace played a huge part this week, and Robertson was thrilled with their contribution after a tough time last year with no spectators.

“Every match has thrown a lot of challenges and coming here, when the tournament was announced last year the crowds were back and to then go into another lockdown was so disappointing, so to hear London cheer again is fantastic,” Robertson said.

Hawkins beat Judd Trump 6-5 in the semi-finals, getting over the line late in the evening, and Robertson paid tribute to the Hawk.

“It was a tough game today and Barry was a bit unlucky yesterday, second semi-final going all the way,” Robertson said. “If the roles had been reversed he maybe would have won today. Sometimes things pan out like that and I am so happy to win this tournament again.”

Robertson has tailored his schedule to ensure he spends quality time with his young family, and he feels his snooker is benefiting from it.

“It is about balancing and doing what works for you,” he said. “If I have to miss the odd event and get to a few more of Alexander’s football matches, or maybe let Mille sleep in and get up with Penelope at 6 in the morning then so be it, and I have struck the perfect balance and my snooker is getting the most out of that.”

– – –

Stream the Shoot-Out and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

The Masters

‘If he catches fire the match takes on a different dynamic’ – O’Sullivan

5 HOURS AGO

The Masters

Robertson crushes Hawkins to win Paul Hunter Trophy for second time

6 HOURS AGO

Jimmy White vs Judd Trump's Eurosport Masters shot of the championship pot

Judd Trump was awarded Eurosport’s Masters shot of the championship, and it proved too tricky even for Jimmy White.

During his win over Kyren Wilson in the quarter-finals, Trump went for a long red to the bottom left with the white tight to the baulk cushion.

That alone was a high enough tariff, but he put some sauce on top by attempting to flick another red off the left cushion and bringing the white out into play.

The Masters

‘No regrets’ – Trump not disappointed with Masters loss to Hawkins

8 HOURS AGO

The world No. 2 executed it to perfection, and it impressed Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Eurosport studio.

“Just potting the red is good enough,” O’Sullivan said. ”But to get the other red off and a half-ball cannon to get the white out. That is as pure as they come.”

White is never one to pass up a challenge and he attempted to recreate the effort, albeit he was not too confident.

“I am keeping my jacket on so I have an excuse,” White said.

In fairness to White, the red wriggled in the jaws of the pocket before being spat out.

“I’d stop there,” advised O’Sullivan.

White is not one to throw in the towel, and he took off the jacket for two further attempts but he could not produce what Trump had done.

We cannot comment as to whether White is still attempting the pot.

– – –

Stream the Shoot-Out and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

The Masters

Hawkins topples Trump in deciding frame to set up Masters final clash with Robertson

A DAY AGO

The Masters

Broken pocket halts play in Trump vs Hawkins Masters semi-final

A DAY AGO

Hawkins misses walk-on cue due to crowd noise

The Masters crowd at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday lifted the bar for the reception they gave Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson for the second session of the final.

The players have revelled in the atmosphere in north London this week, with the raucous crowds a world away from the empty arena in Milton Keynes 12 months ago.

Class of ‘92 greats John Higgins and Mark Williams were given a spine-tingling reception for their quarter-final.

The Masters

‘If he catches fire the match takes on a different dynamic’ – O’Sullivan

2 HOURS AGO

That was arguably impossible to top, but the audience on Sunday gave it a good shot – so much so that Hawkins did not hear his cue to enter the arena.

“Look at that crowd, look at that atmosphere,” Jimmy White said in the Eurosport studio. “Baz is enjoying that.

“He did not know it was his cue to go on.”

When he did make his way down the stairs into the arena, Hawkins – with his family in attendance – had a smile as wide as the Alexandra Palace itself.

– – –

Stream the Shoot-Out and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

The Masters

Robertson edges ahead of Hawkins after first session of Masters final

3 HOURS AGO

The Masters

Hawkins sent back to chair by referee after going to break out of turn

6 HOURS AGO

'If he catches fire the match takes on a different dynamic' – O'Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan feels the Masters final between Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins is on a knife edge heading into the evening session.

Robertson edged the first session at the Alexandra Palace 5-3, but it see sawed and could have gone other ways.

Hawkins could have got out at 4-4, but Robertson passed up a chance in the seventh and may have had a four-frame advantage in the race to 10.

The Masters

Robertson edges ahead of Hawkins after first session of Masters final

AN HOUR AGO

The players will return at 7pm, with the action live on Eurosport, and O’Sullivan feels Hawkins is firmly in the match.

“Hawkins has not scored as well as Robertson, but not many players to do so you can forgive him for that,” O’Sullivan said in the Eurosport studio.

“He (Hawkins) has scraped away and won a lot of the close frames and could have gone 3-2 up. It could have been 4-4. If Barry can win some of those scrappy frames, he’s well in this match. He will be happy with 5-3.”

Hawkins beat Judd Trump in a thriller in the semi-finals, and a rare show of emotion suggested he was in the battle.

“He believes it,” O’Sullivan said. “He looks solid and up for it. You saw last night he showed that emotion, so he has that Eye of the Tiger and is fired up which is good.”

O’Sullivan feels the contest is set up for Hawkins to go on the attack, and advised Robertson against going into his shell.

“When you are an out-and-out attacker, it is hard to go defensive,” O’Sullivan said. “When you set your stall out to be the aggressor like Neil has, you expect he has got to continue to win this match.

“Hawkins has dug out this afternoon, he is 5-3 down and has worked hard, so when he comes in tonight and the shackles release a bit, he has done his hard graft and it could be an opportunity to catch fire.

“If he catches fire the match takes on a different dynamic and it is finely balanced.”

– – –

Stream the Masters and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

The Masters

Hawkins sent back to chair by referee after going to break out of turn

4 HOURS AGO

The Masters

‘Mountain to climb’ – Why Hawkins must bury Masters misery in bid to scale snooker summit

8 HOURS AGO

Robertson edges ahead of Hawkins after first session of Masters final

Neil Robertson edged ahead of Barry Hawkins after the first session of the Masters final.

Robertson looked a little subdued for portions of the afternoon, which was understandable given what he went through to beat Mark Williams in the semi-finals.

But he pinched a fifth frame that should have gone to his opponent, and it freed him up to take a 5-3 lead in the race to 10.

The Masters

Hawkins sent back to chair by referee after going to break out of turn

3 HOURS AGO

Robertson holds a 10-4 head-to-head advantage over Hawkins in tournament play – including the last four meetings – and the Hawk will need to produce something special in the evening at the Alexandra Palace to deny the Australian a second Masters title.

It was a scrappy start with both players missing presentable chances, but Hawkins knocked in the final red and cleared to take the opener.

‘It is Neil to break!’ – Referee has to stop over-zealous Hawkins from breaking off

While Hawkins appeared pumped up by the occasion, Robertson looked a little subdued. His play in the opening frame seemed a hangover from the semi-finals, but he crunched in a couple of brilliant reds in the second to draw level and seemingly settle into the match.

The second frame suggested Robertson was ready to enter battle, and he proved that in style in the third as he knocked in the 37th century of his Masters career to move in front.

The fourth frame was a long way from a decider, but it had the feel of one as both players passed up chances. A Robertson miss proved pivotal, as Hawkins knocked in a good red to draw level at the interval.

Robertson pinched a dramatic final frame against Mark Williams to book his place in the final, and he did the same to Hawkins in the fifth.

Hawkins took two frames before the interval without making a break over 50, but he looked good in the frame upon the resumption when knocking in a break of 60.

He did not close out the frame, and passed up further chances on the final red. The fifth turned Robertson’s way when Hawkins fouled the green with his shirt, and to compound the error he conceded a free ball. Robertson stepped in to pot the final red and the colours to move in front.

Both players missed chances in the sixth, with Hawkins’ pink to left middle proving the costliest. He lifted the butt of his cue just before impact to throw the object ball off line, and a tap of his temple suggested he knew it.

Hawkins showed his battling qualities and steely resolve to see off Judd Trump. Those were on show in the seventh, as he shrugged off another and stood firm as Robertson chased a snooker to take the frame and cut the gap.

Robertson’s long game is one of his strengths, but he was down at 30% in the early stages of the final. It improved as the session wore on, and when knocking in a red in the eighth it lifted him to 63%. It set up a break of 73, and a two-frame lead heading into the evening session.

– – –

Stream the Masters and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.

The Masters

‘Mountain to climb’ – Why Hawkins must bury Masters misery in bid to scale snooker summit

7 HOURS AGO

The Masters

Hawkins topples Trump in deciding frame to set up Masters final clash with Robertson

17 HOURS AGO