Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Robertson clinches marathon victory at Crucible

Neil Robertson with his mother Alison Hunter and the trophy after winning during the Final of the Betfred.com World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Neil Robertson with his mother Alison Hunter and the trophy after winning during the Final of the Betfred.com World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Australia was celebrating its first snooker world champion this morning after Neil Robertson ground out an 18-13 victory over Graeme Dott.

The likeable 28-year-old with the scruffy blond barnet suggested earlier in the championship he was not a fan of morning starts, but evidently morning finishes are more his thing.

The match finished at 12:54am, matching the latest finish - John Higgins completed his victory over Mark Selby at at the same time in 2007.

As he became the first champion from outside the British Isles since Canada's Cliff Thorburn in 1980, Robertson wrapped himself in an Australian flag and saluted the crowd before lifting the trophy.

"This is absolutely perfect," he said.

But just as snooker urgently needed a rush of good publicity, the final proved to be a wholly dispiriting conclusion to the Betfred.com World Championship.

Robertson, whose girlfriend is due to give birth any day now, prevailed so there was no disappointment on his part.

And with his mother Alison present after her dash from the other side of the world it was an extra special occasion.

But it would be fair to assume there will no 25th anniversary replaying of this final, as there was last Thursday of the classic 1985 battle between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis.

In Australia the final was broadcast for the first time on pay-per-view television, and Australians tends to embrace their winners whatever the circumstances.

However banks of empty seats must have been as surprising a sight to the viewers in his home city of Melbourne as they were to those several hundred spectators who deigned to travel to the Sheffield theatre. As midnight passed, the crowd appeared to thin out even more.

Marathon frames made it a gruelling final session, hardly the advert for the sport Barry Hearn would have wanted after the tribulations of the past two days.

For a while it seemed Robertson and Dott were looking to string out the match for an Australia prime-time evening audience, but it was mid-morning in Melbourne when the city's new sporting hero sealed his triumph.

In securing his title, he maintained his perfect record in ranking event finals, stretching it out to five wins from five appearances.

The Australian flag was waved by a loyal follower as Robertson strode purposefully into the arena.

Thirteen years ago Robertson disappointed his mother by quitting school early to focus on snooker, but after several years of toil as a journeyman player he has realised every player's ultimate ambition.

The record books show Australia had a world title to celebrate in 1952, when Horace Lindrum triumphed, but that was the year when the sport's leading players staged a boycott and to this day in many circles he is not regarded as a credible world champion.

Robertson certainly is, and the world title is a natural progression for the left-hander after his four previous ranking titles.

Snooker has experienced a tumultuous 48 hours, with last year's Crucible winner John Higgins suspended over allegations in the News of the World that he agreed to throw frames in future matches for money. He firmly denies the allegations against him and has vowed to clear his name.

That story had almost completely overshadowed the first three sessions of the final.

But tonight snooker had the stage to itself, and it was only a pity that the match did not live up to the occasion.

The late-finish situation called into question the strategy of starting the final-day sessions at 3pm and 8pm.

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