Neil Robertson made history as he claimed the World Snooker Championship after a gruelling 18-13 victory over Graeme Dott.
The Australian overcame Fergal O’Brien, Martin Gould, Steve Davis and Allister Carter to arrive in the final aginst a reborn Graeme Dott who had put paid to the hopes of Peter Ebdon (who Dott of course beat to win the world crown in that long drawn-out final in 2006), followed by Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen and Mark Selby who were summarily dismissed as the Scotsman made it to his third world final in his career.
But how much would the exertions against Selby take out of Dott after the Englishman had kept Dott busy until gone 11pm on Saturday night? The answer initially appeared to be not too much as Dott ended the first session with a 5-3 advantage. However that was swiftly cancelled out as Robertson thundered through the evening session to translate a 5-3 deficit into a 9-7 advantage. All to play for on day two of the final.
Dott was the one who started better on day-2 as he took the opening frame, but Robertson very quickly stretched his legs and soon stretched his advantage to 11-8. It wasn’t a match of the highest quality, as both players were missing more than their fair share of balls. Unfortunately from Graeme’s point of view it was Robertson who was taking full advantage of whatever chances came his way, and he had just enough in the bank to keep Dott at arm’s length. But Graeme isn’t one to give up on a challenge and, with nothing short of terrier toughness, the pocket dynamo closed to 11-9 at the mid-session interval and then shared the last two frames of a truncated session with the Australian clearing 112 to counter the Australian’s effort of 51 and so end the session at 12-10 in arrears.
The pace of the match, which had slowed, meant that they could not complete the last two frames of the allotted eight for the afternoon session. As the clock ticked round to 5.45pm this meant that there was a possible thirteen frames to be played as the drama reached its conclusion in the Crucible. As both players made the long walk into the arena it was ‘Down Under’ versus ‘Two Tribes’. Two tribes were going to war and it was to be a war of attrition.
Dott grabbed the opener to trail 12-11, only for Robertson to hit straight back to lead 13-11. The Australian, supported by his watching mother Alison, then ground out the 25th frame in 45 minutes to extend his lead to 14-11. The free-flowing style of Robertson’s game had vanished, and he was now playing at the pace that suited Dott. All credit to Graeme for digging in and making Neil work for every opening. It says a lot for the respect that the players had for each other, that they exercised supreme caution in the bouts of safety play. It was Graeme who was to be rewarded for his tenacity when he clinched the frame before the mid-session interval to trail 12-14.
Returning for the finale Robertson extended his lead to 15-12, again with no breaks to speak of – just little runs of about thirty here and there – and then the punishing safety that has made him such a feared player on the circuit. However Dott was not finished. He pounced when Robertson missed a red to the corner, and thus kept himself in contention at 13-15. That was to be the last frame he would win though, as Robertson’s tactical nous saw him edge a 48-minute epic on the colours, with a trademark punch of the air as he sank a frame-winning pink to leave Dott totally demoralised.
It was the hammer blow for the Scotsman who then had to sit and suffer as a break of 40 quickly put him under pressure. When he left a red to the corner after a safety exchange, Robertson made sure of the frame and with it a 17-13 lead – just one frame away from making history.
Monday was then Tuesday morning, as the scribes wondered whether the match would go beyond the epic 00.52 finish between Graeme and Peter Ebdon? When Robertson drilled in a red to the centre and set off on a break of 41 it seemed as if the record would remain intact, but a bout of ‘almost there’ nerves combined with safety exchanges saw the minutes tick by towards the record time. Just as the time ticked round to 00.51, the last mistake that Dott was to make came as he left a red to the top corner pocket. With the title now in his grasp Robertson was to make no mistake this time around and he stroked in the points he needed to see himself over the line, and yes, break the record.
As Dott sportingly offered his hand, so Neil’s mum Alison joined her son in the arena to share the greatest triumph of his professional career. The man who first came to England with little over £500 and no waistcoat, will never have that problem again as he received a cheque of £250,000 for his achievement. History had been made on two counts as the World Championship headed Down Under.