Off and winning. Neil Robertson began his season with a 5-3 victory over Thailand's Sunny Akani in the first round of the European Masters that saw him flirt with disaster before emerging triumphant by recovering from trailing 3-1 behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
"At 3-1, he never looked liked missing a ball," said Robertson, the tournament's defending champion after a 9-0 filleting of Zhou Yuelong in the Austrian city of Dornbirn in January. "When I won this last season, it was in a beautiful part of Austria. It was fantastic really with a brilliant crowd.
"It is unfortunate not to go back there, but World Snooker have done an amazing job to get these tournaments on. For all the sponsors to come on board is great. It is really tough at the moment, but we are very fortunate to still be able to play the game.
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"The lower ranked players especially need the prize money at events like this. It is not so important for guys like myself, Judd (Trump) or Ronnie (O'Sullivan)," added Robertson, who rolled in 54, 64 and 63 in the closing four frames having watched Akani contribute 132, 66 and 56 in a searing start to the match.
It is astonishing to think that it has been a full decade since Robertson became Australia’s first world champion with an 18-13 win over Graeme Dott in the 2010 final in Sheffield. Time flies when you are potting for fun.
The Melburnian would feature in any all-time top 10 greatest lists as one of snooker’s finest potters, break-builders and tacticians yet bewilderingly finds himself marooned on one Crucible title.
It is one of the sport's most curious quirks of fate that is up there with Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White winning none. At the age of 38, one suspects Robertson could yet win another one, two or three world gongs over the next 10 years to give his career CV a more resounding finale. And certainly one more in keeping with his standing in the sport.
Akani makes 132 total clearance
It would be fitting for a bloke who is one of snooker’s most considerate, talkative and thoughtful individuals. He is a student of the sport as much as a player, and is well clued up on the moments of yesteryear.
Robertson has come through a smorgasbord of travails as an individual ranging from being stuck in his local job centre in Melbourne after failing at the UK-based professional snooker tour the first time around in the early noughties, his addiction to computer games and his partner Mille’s battle with depression.
He has never complained even when he briefly dropped out of the top 16 three years ago. On the contrary, he discusses his life openly and extensively almost like confronting the brutal truth is as much a cathartic experience as his cue.
When he wins, he is honest. When he loses, he is refreshingly reflective. Neil Robertson is one of snooker’s most likeable and enduring characters. A man for all seasons and every season.
It is unfortunate that snooker is not as popular in his home country as cricket because Robbo carries himself with as much integrity as wearing the baggy green, a true Aussie Bruce of the old green baize.
Devoid of ego, he will happily devote his time to public speaking and promoting the sport as much as his potting.
If Robertson is in a good place with his game, the game of snooker wins. He is winning. As they say Down Under, let’s hope he travels well this season.
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