HONG KONG—Snooker fans were left disappointed two days in a row when their heroes crashed out of the 2017 Masters’ tournament when Neil Robertson earned the title with a hard fought victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium last Sunday (July 23, 2017).
Only a day before, the Australian-born Robertson known as the ‘Melbourne Machine’ apologized to local fans after eliminating Hong Kong-born snooker sensation Marco Fu, who makes a professional career in England, 6-4 in a best of nine frames semi-final. Robertson advanced to the finals to take on O’Sullivan, another of the fans favourites.
To be fair, Robertson actually played faultlessly against a resurgent O’Sullivan who time and again, came out to rescue his game.
Both players took on an attacking game which included an exciting sudden death in the fourth frame which had ended at 67-67. O’Sullivan finally took the frame when Robertson left the black in open territory. O’Sullivan (known as Rocket) for his fast-paced game followed it up with a 143 highest break in the next frame.
From then onwards Robertson took matters into his own hands as he took advantage of O’Sullivan when he had trouble adapting to his cue.
O’Sullivan admitted this equipment malfunction in the post-match press conference with him saying: “To be honest, if you had told me at the start of the week I would be in the final, I would have taken it. I don’t make excuses but my cue – I’ll be setting it on fire as soon as I get home. It’s finished, there were certain shots I couldn’t play, cause it [the cue] has lost its feel.”
He was also asked about the potential of potting 147 points in frame five where he ended at 143.
“I was playing for every ball to go in, as my confidence was not great, and there were certain shots I couldn’t play. I just had to try my hardest and at no point in the tournament did I feel confident, because of my cue.
“I had to do the best that I could, as there were 40 to 50 percent of the shots I knew that I could just not pot. I would get some of them but really I was just not confident with it [the cue]. It’s why it’s got to be burned and I’ll get a new one when I get home.”
“The sooner I get a new one the better,” he said.
“I feel my game is ok and if I can continue like that and feel like that, and if I can get a decent cue, I should be winning some more tournaments soon,” he said.
As to the likelihood of returning to Hong Kong, O’Sullivan was agreeable as he favoured the atmosphere and the crowds as they cheered him on throughout the finals – he enjoyed the venue and enjoyed himself here.
Robertson, the ‘Melbourne Machine’ was just as ecstatic with his Hong Kong Masters victory and said he would take a lot from it. The Masters has the best eight players in the world and the draw was incredible,” he said.
“Mark Selby in the quarters and Marco Fu in the semis and Ronnie [O’Sullivan] in the final, it just doesn’t get any harder than that and that is what makes it all that more special and to do it all in front of 3,000 people in that arena,” he said.
“It’s the best playing experience for me and it beats the Crucible and it beats the UK Masters. The enthusiastic crowd was special for every shot and I’ve never experienced that, and on top of that the crowd really behaved themselves,” said Robertson.
“When we come out to Asia you see a lot of cameras going off, but here there was none of that and that made for one of the most amazing experiences for me,” he added.
As to the game, Robertson knew he had to play his own game and not allow O’Sullivan any leeway and to dictate the pace.
He knew victory was his when he potted the blue to take the game 6-3 (73-8).
More shots of the Hong Kong Snooker Masters 2017:
Eddie So is a seasoned sports journalist and photographer and has worked for a number of media companies in Hong Kong over a period of more than 20 years.