Neil Robertson battled past a stubborn Allister Carter to book a place in the final of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
Robertson waltzed through the first four frames with Allister largely confined to his seat – save perhaps for the token appearance to the table where he struggled to find any rhythm. Mind you the run of the balls was favouring the Australian and Carter’s late night victory over Shaun Murphy the previous night looked to have caught up with him.
And when Robertson went 5-0 up things were looking very grim for the man from Tiptree. To his credit he rallied to win the sixth frame only to lose the next before with the help of a 93 break taking the final frame of the session to reduce his arrears to 6-2.
Robertson maintained his four frames advantage against Allister Carter after the second session. He opened with a bang as he powered in a long red straight from Carter’s break off and with the cue ball on a string made a break of 140, the third highest in the Championship high break list behind Mark Allen’s 146 and Mark Selby’s 142.
The Autralian looked unstoppable as he then hammered in a long red for a 60 in frame 10 only to miss a mid length red. Robertson was then forced to sit and sweat as Carter inched his way back into the frame with a 35 – only to go in off when potting the black. Carter was not helping his cause by attempting a number of low percentage shots but Robertson couldn’t finish the frame off – and he so nearly paid dearly for it when he missed the green. Leading 42-67 Robertson left the green hanging over the corner pocket. Carter needed everything to force a re-spotted black.
Sinking green to black Carter then set up the respotted black. But playing the wrong shot was to prove expensive. Attempting a long black to the corner that had too much risk about it was always asking for trouble and so it proved as the ball trundled towards the pocket and stopped agonisingly in the jaws. With a look of relief Robertson walked to the table, knocked in the black and extended his lead to 8-2.
Carter needed some inspiration if he was going to get back into a game that he had been frozen out of and also needed to start improving his shot selection. By slowing the pace down, and visibly taking his time, the Tiptree player looked a far better player in frame 11 despite miscuing the black. Allister though sent back to his seat because of the foul stroke was soon back at the table with a 76 to close to 8-3. It was all the encouragement he needed as he took the next two frames – freezing the Australian out for 90 minutes. All of a sudden Neil’s lead had plunged from 8-2 to 8-6.
With the challenge now issued the question was if Robertson could respond. And the answer was a resounding yes as he thundered in breaks of 59 and concluded the session in the same way he started it with a century, 104, to lead 10-6.
The third session started with a scrappy first frame, which went the way of the Englishman. This was only to goad Robertson into devastating form once more as he fired in breaks of 48 and 43 to re-establish his four frame advantage. Carter looking increasingly depressed contributing to his own downfall – not least when he left a red over the corner pocket. Pouncing, Neil hammered in a 116 and followed with a 78 as he built a 13-7 lead.
It was looking desperatly grim for Carter, and with his confidence being eroded what he needed was an “easy” chance to stay in touch, but it certainly was not going to come in frame 21 as Robertson blasted in a long red and and made 38 before winning a safety dual and clearing up with 51 to lead 14-7.
To Carter’s credit he continued to battle and at least halted the streak of four frames against him with a vital 41 before capturing the 23rd frame with a 55 after Robertson had let him in with a missed mid length red. So with one frame of the session still to be played Robertson was in the position of being four or six frames in front overnight. And with both players fully aware of the significance, a crashing climax ensued as Carter cancelled out Robertson’s lead of 40 with a break of 50. With just ten points separating the two players one mistake could prove fatal.
And it was the most cruel twist of the lot as Carter sank a long green only to agonisingly watch the cue ball come off two cushions and into the yellow pocket. With the balls on the spots Robertson had no trouble in clearing up to the pink – and let fly with a bellow of “Come on” as he shook hands with Allister and left the arena with a 15-9 lead in tow.
Robertson needed only two of the scheduled nine frames in the fourth and final session to ensure that an Australian would contest the World Snooker Championship final for the first time since 1976 when Eddie Charlton was beaten by Ray Reardon in Robertson’s home town of Melbourne, Australia.
But Carter ensured that it was not going to be an easy afternoon for the Australian as he dug in taking full advantage of Robertson’s missed long red to the corner. Left with an open table Carter made a telling 64 break, which in truth should have been substantially more, and it would have been had it not have been for a missed black off the spot. It left Robertson requiring snookers that he wasn’t able to get and Carter duly wrapped up the frame after forcing a free ball from Robertson.
Robertson was still enjoying a commanding advantage, but he was still giving Carter chances. And one came gift wrapped in the second frame of the session when Robertson slammed into the pack of reds, scattering them all over the table. As Carter slotted in an easy starter he relaxed and made a quickfire 71. Now the lead was 15-11 and Robertson still needed two to get over the line.
Neil badly needed one of his trademark power shots to get his cueing arm functioning, and it finally came in frame 27. An initial effort of 35 ended with Neil playing safe. Carter forced his way back into the frame to leave the scores poised on 42-44 in favour of Neil. With just one red and the colours remaining the frame looked to be heading to Carter after an outrageous fluke on the final red. But position on the colours was non existent and Carter was forced to play safe, and here is where he made a critical mistake as he left the colours at his mercy. Stepping in Neil cleared from yellow to pink to clinch the frame and move within one of victory at 16-11
Carter experienced severe bad rub of the green, but did get an outrageous fluke in frame 27
Carter though refused to surrender and fought with runs of 22 and 28 that proved enough to close to 16-12 and take the match to the last mid-session interval, but Robertson was not to be denied as on the resumption he powered in a long red and opened a lead of 40 points. With Allister under the most severe pressure safety was to be his downfall as he left Neil in prime position in mid table. Robertson grabbed his chance with both hands and dispatched the red and followed with 34 to seal a 17-12 victory and with it a place in the final against Mark Selby or Graeme Dott.
Suzy Jardine – The Crucible