It’s not just what you see at the Crucible that’s important, not just the endless frames, the drama, the close finishes, the key balls potted. It’s also what you don’t see: the long hours in the hotel or dressing room, staring into the mirror, racked with self doubt, telling yourself not to blow it, not to squander this chance that comes by but once a year. The chance to be the best in the world.
Snooker’s biggest event lasts 17 days so there’s plenty of time for a mental implosion or two. The matches are split into sessions and can span several days. Sleep is in short supply. Worry hangs heavy in the air.
But Neil Robertson is made of stern stuff, Aussie steel, an inbuilt belief in his own abilities. Competitive he may be in the arena, possessed of that trademark Australian grit, but off table he is as laidback as they come, so much so that to chat to him is like chewing the fat with a mate, not talking to a world champion, a world no.1.
He isn’t starry and he isn’t conceited. He’s just Neil, the guy from Melbourne who came to try his luck at snooker and ended up the best in the world.
He doesn't do anxiety and this relaxed persona means that nerves do not affect him as badly as some. It showed last season at the venue that really counts.
He trailed Martin Gould 11-5 heading into the final session of their second round match. It looked as if his World Championship title bid was over, a defeat as heavy as it was unexpected.
But Robertson’s glass is half full. Scrap that: he refuses to believe it isn’t overflowing. He felt he still had a chance and did it, won 13-12 and nine days later beat Graeme Dott 18-13 to become world champion.
It’s an attitude you can’t teach. You’re either made that way or you’re not.
“My dad’s very laidback and I guess I take after him,” Robertson told me.
“In fact my girlfriend thinks I’m too laidback and hates it sometimes. She can’t understand how I can stay relaxed all the time and it almost annoys her that I don’t get annoyed by certain things.
“Someone could be really rude to me, where other people would want to say something back, but I’m, like, ‘who cares?’ I’ve always been like that. I’m not one for fights and even admit I’m wrong when I’m not just to avoid confrontation. I think all that’s a waste of time.
“I think it helps with dealing with pressure in the game. Some players mutter things under their breath, particularly in the PTCs where there’s no TV. They’ll go into the pack off the blue and not land on a red and you’ll hear them say, ‘that’s typical of my luck.’ I’ll just get on with it. Just play the balls where they are. You can’t complain about being unlucky or getting a kick. It’s part of the game, just as in football you’ll get decisions going your way sometimes and at other times they won’t. You just have to accept it.”More Here