Today’s China Open final pits together two bona fide hard men of the sport. Mark Selby and Neil Robertson will go head-to-head for the £85,000 first prize, just as they crossed cues in the Masters final two months ago.
At Ally Pally, Robertson had been superb all week but his performance in the final dipped as Selby got under his skin.
This is one of Selby’s best assets: the ability to control matches and dent the confidence of his opponents. As Shaun Murphy put it yesterday: “he is just the best safety player in the world and, in the nicest way, he brings the worst out of his opponents. Most frames go scrappy and he usually wins them.”
Robertson has already said he starts second favourite, which is a neat way of playing down expectations and putting pressure on Selby, although the world no.1 doesn’t seem to care or even notice what’s going on around him.
For Selby, playing snooker trumps all the soap opera that goes on around the sport, including all the financial rewards on offer. This is another reason he has been so consistent.
He can win titles not playing at his best, a rare skill and one which came to the fore at both the UK Championship and Masters earlier in the season.
In Beijing yesterday Robertson showed once again why he is one of the very best under pressure with two good final frames to beat Stephen Maguire in a really high quality semi-final.
The Australian is looking for his first major title of the season. It’s been coming. He’s been really close several times.
In general Robertson is playing well. The key to him winning today is coping with Selby, in particular not letting him dictate what sort of match it becomes.
For this reason Robertson needs to be positive, to attack. He is formidable in full flow but if he gets sucked into the tactical stuff he may come up short again.