Neil Robertson didn’t even qualify for the Dafabet Masters last year, but this time he’s into the quarter-finals as he came from 3-1 down to beat World Champion Mark Williams 6-3.
Australia’s Robertson dropped briefly out of the top 16 at just the wrong moment a year ago after a run of poor results, missing snooker’s biggest invitation tournament. Since then he has won two ranking events and climbed back into the world’s top ten.
And the former World, UK and Masters champion showed signs of his best form today at Alexandra Palace as he reeled off five frames in a row to send Williams home. Robertson goes through to face Barry Hawkins or Shaun Murphy on Friday evening.
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Two-time Masters winner Williams made a top break of 74 as he built a 3-1 interval advantage. And the Welshman led 57-0 in frame five, only for Robertson to snatch it with a superb 59 clearance, which proved the turning point. Runs of 102 and 69 put Robertson 4-3 ahead.
Frame eight came down to a tactical battle on the colours, and after a safety error from Williams on the pink, Robertson slotted in an excellent pot along the top cushion for 5-3. A few minutes later the match was over as his run of 88 secured his place in the last eight.
“In the first few frames I was probably looking at shots for a bit too long, and funnily enough they were the balls I missed,” said 36-year-old Robertson. “I had to pick up the pace, it was as simple as that. I had to force myself to play the way I do in practice in terms of the tempo. That’s what I did and I got going and felt absolutely fantastic.
“I made a huge clearance to get it back to 3-2 and that was the moment in the match that really got me going. I played really well after that.
“It was really frustrating coming here last year (to work for Eurosport) and not being in the tournament. It’s hard to miss out. I would have been devastated to miss out again, especially this year with the new screens which are great for the audience because they can see a different perspective.
“To beat the World Champion today was a huge step in the right direction. I didn’t know what to expect from Mark. I was playing in the Championship League on New Year’s Day and Mark was on a cruise somewhere getting hammered! He said after he won the world title he was going to enjoy it as much as possible and he’s done that so good on him.”
Williams said: “I played poor all the way through really. I had an easy brown to look like going 4-1 up and when I missed that the match turned. He started to play ok, had some good breaks and the momentum shifted around. As soon as I missed that brown I was never in it.
“He had a lot of run when he was nicking frames off me, but after missing that brown the balls never forgave me.
“I was expecting to play like that to be honest because I’ve hardly touched my cue. I’ll have to start practising obviously with the World Championship coming up. It’s the only tournament I’m looking forward to. I’ll have to put a bit of work in for that otherwise I’ll play like I did today and go out in the first round. I’ve got no-one else to blame if I go out in the first round, it’ll be my own fault.”