There is suddenly more colour in Neil Robertson’s life than just the balls he pots on a snooker table.
Robertson will miss the Masters in January for the first time since 2007, but the gifted Melburnian is hardly glum about being left outside looking in at a tournament he won in 2012.
'I'm just thankful I could repay her tonight' - Robertson's emotional tribute to wife
Snooker has been key to 35-year-old Robertson's success, he was world champion in 2010, but is utterly insignificant when he has been forced to confront his partner Mille Fjelldal battling depression and anxiety over the past three years.
Robertson went public earlier this month on a problem that has affected his private and public life. And afflicts millions across the world.
Image credit: Imago
It perhaps culminated in him slipping to 20 in the current rankings and missing the Masters after finishing outside of the top 16 that are invited to the sport’s biggest invitational event.
“Under normal circumstances, I think it would affect me,” Robertson told Eurosport.
“But the issues off the table have been well publicised.
It has been good being able to speak about that, and not getting into the Masters is better than squeezing into that event and still have these problems going on.
Robertson has made over £3.5m in prize money from snooker, but the folding stuff is meaningless when dealing with mental health.
Worries over Mille and his son Alexander has blighted his existence as the black dog has made it difficult to focus on black balls.
But he is slowly but surely regaining his gait illustrated by a 4-0 win over Chris Totten in the last 32 of the Scottish Open on Thursday that included breaks of 79, 56 and 97.
“You can’t win snooker’s biggest events if you have problems going on in your head, and the last couple of years I’ve been absent from them,” said Robertson.
“It has been really tough to play. But for the first time in three years, I can go away to every tournament and know I’m not going to get a random phone call being asked to come home.
That makes it much easier for me to play, and is really good for Mille too. Mille is out and about, and is working, and is getting on with her life and doing really well.
“I’m playing great, and enjoying the game more than I ever have. It is nice to go to the club to practise for as long as I want without getting a phone call. Or worry about my son Alexander.
“So finally both of our lives seem to be on track, and now I can focus on snooker and she can focus on her life.”
Robertson added to his world title by claiming the Masters in 2012 and the UK Championship in 2013 and 2015.
He believes he is in the form of his life. Which is some feat when you consider Robertson is the fourth most prolific century maker in the history of snooker with 528 behind only Ronnie O’Sullivan (914), Stephen Hendry (772) and John Higgins (682).
“I’ve improved as a player from the one that won the UK Championship a couple of years ago. My scoring is just phenomenal at the moment,“ said Robertson.
“I’ve just been losing the scrappier kind of matches when my mind wasn’t focused on the job in hand.
“My game is so much better now than when I first won the world.
A lot of players have belief even when you wallop them with centuries. When we had six or seven tournaments, there were fewer players who could win them because you had to have a really strong mentality.
“You had to be used to that pressure of only having a few earning opportunities a year. The lower ranked guys couldn’t deal with that because they were under huge financial pressure.
“So there were fewer players who could win tournaments. It is harder to win tournaments now with the amount of people in the last 64. They used to be walkover matches.”
Robertson admits he has unfinished business with the World Championship, and believes his can end his career as Australia’s greatest player with more than one victory at the Crucible.
He believes his game is strong enough to emulate Mark Selby’s feat of winning three world titles in Sheffield.
“It is an unbelievable effort from Mark to win three in this era,” said Robertson.
“Mark Williams has been quite vocal in his opinion, and thinks I should be a multiple world champion like Selby.
“It has been hard to take the last couple of years because I know I’ve had no chance with what has been going on off the table.
“It’s not been an excuse, but I’ve not been able to go away to these kind of events with the mentality that I’m not going to have any problems while I’m playing.
“Even to do what I have in winning the UK, you wouldn’t believe what I went through to try and win that tournament and the Champion of Champions.
“On one hand, I’ve done really well, but it has been really frustrating not to put myself in a position to compete with Selby and Ronnie for the major titles.”
Desmond Kane at the Emirates Arena
*** This article was originally published in December 2017 ***
Robertson claims Scottish Open glory after dramatic Cao collapse
Agony for Cao in epic Glasgow final