Last season’s World Championship final ceased to be a snooker match around the time it became clear that the two players slaving in the heat of the Crucible cauldron were physically and emotionally spent.
The wisdom of an 8pm start for the final session, following a 3pm start in the afternoon, was soon questioned when it became apparent that Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott could barely stand up, never mind pot balls.
But Robertson was the fresher of the two. Perhaps the extra grit came from the fact that he was chasing a maiden world title. Whatever, he was determined to win by any means possible.
“It wasn’t just 8pm. The problem was that the afternoon session started at 3pm and it was too late. I couldn’t understand that. Had they brought it forward it would have been a better match on the eye,” Robertson told this blog.
“I was very attacking against Ali Carter in the semi-finals, thought I played really well, and I was prepared to be like that again against Graeme in the final.
“But I could sense Graeme was getting tired and I thought, well, I can scrap this out if I have to. I realised he would get more tired than me.
“So I kind of let it get scrappy rather than forcing an open game. I knew I had more in the tank than him and that the longer it went on, the more he would struggle.
“The schedule lent the final to one of us winning by draining the other guy, which wasn’t my intention at the start of the match.
“My dad said he was proudest of me for outlasting Graeme, one of the strongest players there is mentally, in the fight.”
With barely time to celebrate, he was off to Norway where his girlfriend, Mille, was due to give birth to their first child at any moment. Baby Alexander is now ensconced with the happy couple in Cambridge. Just as Robertson was getting used to life as world champion he was having to adjust to an even bigger change in lifestyle.
“My little boy has distracted me from any worries I might have had about being world champion and how I would be viewed. Being a dad is demanding enough,” he said.
“But it’s been really tough to properly structure my life around snooker and my family. Mille and I don’t have our parents with us to help out. We’re still both settling in and doing the apartment up to be as good as it can be for our son.
“I’ve probably been too lazy with practice and haven’t become accustomed to the PTCs in terms of how many to play in. I won’t be going to Germany for the event there this week. I feel it’s too much travel after the Premier League and trying to look after my son as well. I want to ensure everything is right at home while at the same time preparing properly for the UK Championship.”
This is a tricky balancing act that not all players get right. In his first season as world champion, Steve Davis endured a punishing schedule that lasted right up to a few hours before his first round match against Tony Knowles at the 1982 World Championship, where he was signing books in a local newsagent. Knowles beat him 10-1.
Robertson does not have to chase success. Any pressure of expectation placed upon him by himself or others has been lifted by his early season capture of the World Open but there are other titles to win. The Australian left-hander has never had a really good run in the UK Championship or the Wembley Masters, the two majors approaching before the circuit touches down once more at the Crucible.
“I’ve got a good lead in the rankings at the moment but there’s that addiction to accumulating ranking points and it’s hard to know how to approach the season, whether to play in everything or work on preparation for the bigger events,” Robertson said.
“There’s a lot of great players who have never been introduced as world champion. It’s a great buzz and I’ll enjoy it right until the Crucible.
“I need to structure my season around making a good defence. Before that I want to do well in the UK Championship. The last two seasons I’ve lost in deciders to Stephen Maguire and John Higgins, which is no disgrace, but I want to excel in that one because it’s so prestigious.
“I’ve never been in the semis of the Masters either, although again I’ve come up against players playing at the top of their game the last couple of years.
“You can’t pick and choose which tournaments you’re going to do well in. You take what comes and even winning one title a season is an achievement.”
Some say Robertson is lazy, that he has not always practised enough. He agrees.
“My laziness does come to the fore every now and again. That’s the biggest battle I have really. You can go for days doing nothing. I need to get a structure in my life so that that doesn’t happen," he said.
“I don’t feel I’ve looked after myself properly this season. I need to hit the gym and start eating a lot better. I’m not in the right frame of mind for all the travel and need to refocus.
“I want to get the best out of my ability and improve as a player. I definitely believe I can win more titles.”
Like many Australians, sport courses through Robertson’s veins. Patriotic, he’s also a shrewd judge of what it takes to win.
So will his country’s cricketers regain the Ashes over the next couple of months or can England win them in Australia for the first time in 24 years?
In assessing the likely result, nationalism gives way to sober analysis.
“England have a great chance,” Robertson said. “The Australian side is still going through a rebuilding phase and Ricky Ponting is probably the last great player of that golden era. He’ll have to be at his best. He has some unfinished business, although even if Australia win he’ll still be unsatisfied having lost the last two series in England.
“I’m not that familiar with the Australian side. It seems to change quite a bit. We don’t have the world class bowlers we used to have. We’d score 200 in the first innings and then have Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath come in and bowl out the other side for 150. We’ve lost that firepower, which puts pressure on our batsmen, and we don’t have the world class batsmen we used to have either.
“Five or six years ago I could tell you every batting average in the team but I’ve not had that exposure to them since moving to the UK.
“I think Australia can lift their game but the first couple of tests will be crucial. With England holding the Ashes they only have to draw the series, whereas we have to win it.”
In the background I hear his baby calling for attention from his father and let him go. I wish him well and mean it. He's worked hard for his success and what's come his way in life.
He should enjoy it and snooker should enjoy him.