Neil Robertson has become snooker’s major force

When Judd Trump won 11 tournaments in two seasons, many felt that it was the beginning of a period of dominance for the man nicknamed ‘The Ace in the Pack’. After about a decade of flattering to deceive, Trump suddenly kicked into an extra gear and became a winning machine for two years, landing the Masters and World Championship titles during an unprecedented purple patch.

However, the nature of modern snooker is that it is very difficult to maintain one’s place at the top, and Trump has struggled this season by his usual high standards. Instead, it is Neil Robertson who has stepped up to the mark and become the sport’s main man. With three major titles already to his name in the 2021-22 campaign so far — the English Open, the Masters and the Players Championship — the Australian has claimed his place on snooker’s throne. 

He might not be the world number one as far as the rankings are concerned, but there’s no denying that Robertson is the best snooker player on the planet at the moment. The way he won those three tournaments demonstrated the class he has on the baize, both in terms of the bombastic long-potting ability that helped him climb to the top of the sport over a decade ago, and also the well-honed all-round ability that now defines his game. 

Robertson has fast become a complete player. In the past, criticism has come his way due to a perception that he didn’t have the defensive nous needed to compete with the very best. However, having defeated John Higgins, arguably the greatest tactical player the game has ever seen, in the final of the English Open this season, that assertion can be cast aside. Now, those who bet in play on know that Robertson is one of the players to beat. 

Indeed, Robertson’s triumph at the Masters demonstrated just how far his game has come over the last 10 years. In round one, he struggled to produce his best against Anthony McGill, but still controlled proceedings and emerged a 6-3 winner. The quarter-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan saw Robertson deliver a stellar display, dispatching the six-time world champion by a comfortable 6-3 scoreline.

Then came the semi-final, and at 5-3 down to Mark Williams, it looked as though Robertson’s goose was cooked. However, he found some form to force a decider, and despite Williams getting to the snookers required stage, Robertson produced an incredible fightback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That set up a clash with Barry Hawkins in the final, where the Australian demonstrated his killer instinct by pulling away in the second session to win 10-4 and claim his second Masters title. 

Critics will claim that Robertson hasn’t been properly tested in the tournaments he won this season. He beat Hawkins in both the Masters and Players Championship finals, and while the Englishman is a quality top-16 player, he isn’t of the same calibre as someone like Trump or Mark Selby. 

Another reason why some will still have their doubts about the Australian is his record at the World Championship. Since winning it back in 2010, Robertson has only made the semi-finals once in 2014, and has not been back to the showpiece match. It’s no secret that he does not enjoy the close confines of the Crucible Theatre, but if Robertson is to truly carve a legacy in snooker, he’s going to need to improve his record in Sheffield.

For now though, snooker can content themselves that one of the game’s all-time greats is operating at an incredibly high standard. 

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