Thursday, 22 September 2011

Robertson masters Motherwell

Neil Robertson has been largely written off in this season's Premier League - but victory in Motherwell proved he could still yet mount a challenge.

I've always thought the Australian was destined to be a player caobale of producing his very best in this event. After all, just like the Premier League, he's one of the more glitzy and glamorous players in the sport.

He's got the kind of swagger that's needed to be successful in the Premier League.

But since taking his place alongside some of the game's very best in this format, he's struggled to adapt.

His first few appearances in the Premier League proved the danger a shot-clock could pose for many players. When the buzzer sounds to remind the player he has five seconds remaining, Robertson would almost always rush his shot as if he just had one remaining.

That's an easy mistake to make when you're not used to playing against a timer in every other event. It's difficult to slide straight into the new pressures the Premier League nights throw up and Robertson isn't alone in finding it difficult.

But like anything, practice makes perfect - as Neil is beginning to show.

Despite yet more patchy form in the event last season, Robertson managed to sneak quietly into the semi-finals. That wasn't enough to convince people he was slowly making strides in the format. Instead, at the start of this season's tournament his chances were immediately thrown on to the scrapheap by many, as he was labelled unable to produce under the format.

A 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Matthew Stevens on the first week in Skegness did little to dispel this theory, but tonight Robertson got down to business.

His semi-final match looked like a mountain to climb on paper against world champion John Higgins in pretty much his own backyard. The entrance Higgins received to the arena was sensational, but that didn't put Robertson off as he coasted to a whitewash victory.

Neil found out first hand exactly how it feels to lose on his own patch as favourite, beaten earlier in the season by Dominic Dale in the Australian Open. He wasn't afraid to dish it out to John in return.

It was in the final though that Robertson showed he may just have turned a corner in playing Premier League snooker. After losing the first frame on a re-spotted black, the 2010 world champion replied with back-to-back centuries on the way to a 3-1 win.

Beating Ding wasn't gimme either. The Chinese potter played superbly to beat Shaun Murphy 3-2 in his semi-final, although just as much credit should go to the Magician who played well enough to win in what was arguably the best match of the Premier League so far.

Despite racking up the air miles from Brazil just to be here, Murphy was still at the races and played his part in a terrific contest. Ding played close to his best.

Robertson probably went in to tonight's matches as the underdog of the four players, but we shouldn't be surprised by his ability to find his feet.

Similarly, his performances in the PTC series last season left a lot to be desired. Already this term he's beginning to show signs of challenging at the business end of those tournaments more consistently.

While Robertson may be a slower starter than some in formats new to him, that doesn't mean he can't turn his hand to any form of snooker.

That's why his performance tonight shows he could yet be a dark horse in the Premier League.

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