Neil Robertson described it as the “greatest Masters match ever” but it was Judd Trump who went through to the semi-finals of the Dafabet-sponsored event with an incredible 6-5 victory.
It was a wonderful contest at Alexandra Palace as two of snooker’s most powerful forces clashed head-on. Trump made four centuries and Robertson two, making it the first best-of-11 frame match in the sport’s history to feature six tons. Fittingly, the tie was settled by a stunning break from Trump in the deciding frame.
The 26-year-old from Bristol is through to the Masters semis for the second time and will meet Barry Hawkins at 1pm tomorrow with the chance to reach his first final. Tickets for that match are still on sale – for details click here.
Since winning the UK Championship and reaching the World final in 2011, Trump’s record in the Triple Crown events has been relatively poor; his only other final coming at the UK in 2014 when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan. Having worked hard on his game over the Christmas break, the gifted young cueman is now determined to improve that record and win his first title of any sort since the World Grand Prix last March.
The opening frame today was a cagey affair, Trump taking it with a break of 48, before the fireworks started. World number five Trump knocked in a 104 to go 2-0 up, then Australia’s Robertson took the third frame then made a 139 for 2-2.
Again Trump opened up a two frame lead, thanks to runs of 105 and 78, and again his opponent recovered, winning the seventh with a break of 100 and the eighth with 41 and 29. A total clearance of 140, the new front runner for the £10,000 high break prize, made it 5-4 to Trump before Robertson levelled with a 78.
A brief safety exchange early in the decider ended when Trump brilliantly potted a thin cut on a red to a blind centre pocket, and Robertson could do nothing more than watch as the Englishman executed a series of cracking pots. Trump almost missed a blue to centre early in the break – the ball bounced out of the pocket before dropping back in – but he remained in control and went on to make a match-winning 129.
“We both played as well as we can and it was definitely one of the best games I’ve been involved in – there could have been eight or nine centuries,” said Trump. “In the last frame I said to myself that there’s no point in playing like this and losing because you won’t be remembered for that. I play my best snooker when I’m playing fast and my average shot time today was 15 or 16 seconds. Even in the last frame I decided to just go for it and not think too much. There was a dodgy blue half way through the break but when that went in I felt that was my twitchy one out of the way, and I made sure I stayed composed.
“I was so relieved at the end because I didn’t want to play like that and lose. Recently I’ve been very edgy under pressure so to make a century proved to myself that I can still deal with that. I take a lot of confidence from it although we’re only halfway through the tournament so I can’t get carried away.
“Over the last seven or eight months I have stayed still and all the other players have improved. I threw a match away against Liang Wenbo at the UK Championship because I was twitchy under pressure, as soon as he came back at me my technique fell apart. I’ve put in a lot of work since then and now I feel I can hold it together.
“Over Christmas I practised until I couldn’t bear to see the table any more, so that’s paying off now. In the past this has been the only one of the big three events where I haven’t felt comfortable. I’ve turned that around this time and to get to the final would be fantastic.”
Robertson said: “I felt it would take someone playing out of their skin to beat me this week, and that’s what happened. I played a couple of bad safety shots to be 4-2 down but I can’t be hard on myself. It’s got to be the greatest Masters match ever, there’s no dispute about that. Judd played like he’s never played before, and I played my part as well.
“Judd made a great break in the decider and I didn’t get a chance – my only glimmer was when I thought he’d missed that blue to the middle. Every credit to him because he knew he had to be at his absolute best today to beat me. He even pinched my highest break prize! He’ll be big favourite to beat Barry tomorrow but he won’t be fazed by that.”