Masters 2022: 'Mountain to climb' – Barry Hawkins battles Neil Robertson and past misery in bid to reach snooker summit
Barry Hawkins will hope for better fortunes in his second appearance in a Masters final against Neil Robertson on Sunday. The world number 10 won the first frame against Ronnie O'Sullivan six years ago only to lose the next ten in suffering a 10-1 defeat in the showpiece occasion. It was the first time any player had achieved the dubious feat of winning or losing 10 straight frames in the final.
'What a break this has been' Barry Hawkins hits 125 against Judd Trump
After defeating Judd Trump 6-4 from 4-3 behind in the 2016 Masters semi-finals and piecing together glorious breaks of 130, 128, 100, 78 and 74 to topple the former UK champion, Hawkins was subjected to abject misery against Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final a day later.
After winning the first frame against O'Sullivan, the 2013 world finalist haemorrhaged a record 10 straight frames in suffering a painful 10-1 flogging, failing to compile a break above 50 in a nightmarish experience.
Steve Davis had only managed nine in a haunting 9-0 whitewash of the unfortunate Mike Hallett in the 1988 final at the old Wembley Conference Centre.
"I'm disappointed with my performance today, I didn't give him a game today at all," said a wincing Hawkins after the final. "I didn't feel like I could pot a ball in the end."
When Hawkins meets 2012 champion and overwhelming pre-match favourite Neil Robertson in the 48th Masters final on Sunday (12:45pm LIVE on Eurosport) he battles the strutting, free-flowing Australian in his pomp, but perhaps also horrible histories of six years ago.
“I’ve got a mountain to climb against Neil tomorrow," said three-times ranking event winner Hawkins, who rolled in 60, 124, 76 and a closing 58 to usurp world number two Trump after a 6-1 drubbing of number one Mark Selby in the quarter-finals.
He is an unbelievable player and you don’t fancy him to miss a ball with that cue action of his.
"I have to block all of that out, forget who I’m playing and concentrate on what I’m doing. I will enjoy every moment of it and try my best."
Oddly enough, Robertson is on a similar trajectory with history as he bids to emulate his 2012 success that saw him overcome Shaun Murphy 10-6, but disintegrate 10-2 to Murphy in the final three years later.
If he is successful in the chase for the Paul Hunter Trophy and the £250,000 first prize, the Melburnian would match O'Sullivan's longest gap between first and second Masters victories spanning a decade (1995 and 2005).
'This is incredible snooker' - Robertson beats Williams to reach Masters final
Robertson had defeated Mark Williams 6-4 in the quarter-finals on his march to the sport's most coveted invitational event – traditionally fought out between the sport's top 16 – a decade ago, the first time the event was held at the Ally Pally in North London.
Robertson was majestic at times with runs of 102, 52, 83, 95 and 115 showing his natural ability to score heavily when the opportunity presents itself.
'Any win over Ronnie O’Sullivan is one to celebrate' - Robertson wraps up win with brilliant red
“Any final is a great opportunity to win another trophy," said 2010 world champion Robertson. "I can’t allow myself to think what it will mean if I win or lose. I just have to play the best I can and when I shake my opponent’s hand I need to be gracious in defeat or humble in victory.
The most important thing is to play my heart out and see what happens.
The last time the final duo met over this elongated distance saw Robertson triumph 13-9 in the last 16 of last year's World Championship, but Hawkins enjoyed a 10-6 victory in the semi-finals of the 2018 China Open.
History counts for little when the snooker balls start rolling, but memories are perhaps harder to shift.
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