Continuing our series on ex-professionals...
Alain Robidoux followed in the footsteps of those great Canadian snooker players of the 1980s – Cliff Thorburn, Kirk Stevens and Bill Werbeniuk – and was his country’s no.1 player for a decade.
Robidoux was a French Canadian with an accent likened by one snooker journalist to Inspector Clouseau.
He was a friendly, laidback sort who reached ninth in the world rankings until his cue was broken beyond repair, which heralded a shockingly sudden decline and, ultimately, the end of his professional career.
Bizarrely, Robidoux joined the pro tour without winning a match. In the late 1980s, the WPBSA had a number of ‘non tournament’ professionals. They were on the ranking list but couldn’t play in most of the ranking events.
Robidoux could enter the 1988 World Championship but his first two opponents failed to show up and he amassed enough points to finish in the top 128 and thus join the tour full time.
He made an immediate impact by reaching the televised phase of his first tournament, the Fidelity International, and taking Steve Davis to a decider.
A month later, he reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix, losing 9-7 to Alex Higgins and it was clear he would soon pose a threat to the game’s elite.
In September 1988, he became only the sixth player ever to record an officially ratified 147 maximum break in the qualifiers for the European Open.
It took only two full seasons for him to be promoted to the top 16 and in 1990 joined Thorburn and Bob Chaperon in winning the World Team Cup for Canada.
Like many players, Robidoux’s form came and went in spells but by 1996 he was on an upward curve once again.
He qualified for the Crucible and drew Ronnie O’Sullivan in a match that ended in bitterness and controversy. Well ahead, O’Sullivan played left-handed for the first time in a major tournament. Robidoux believed he was making fun of him and, at 9-3 and with many, many snookers required on the pink, played on to make his point.
O’Sullivan elected not to pot the pink and so viewers watching live on the BBC were treated to ten minutes of nonsense.
Neither player covered themselves in glory with some ill judged post-match comments but they had patched things up by the German Open the following season, where they fought out a high quality final which O’Sullivan won 9-7.
In 1997, Robidoux enjoyed a run to the semi-finals of the World Championship, where his bid to emulate Thorburn as champion was ended in a 17-7 defeat to Ken Doherty.
It saw Robidoux rise to ninth in the world and poised to enjoy perhaps the best spell of his career.
But it wasn’t to be. Robidoux needed repairs done to his cue and sent it back to the man who had originally made it.
However, the cue maker was, it would be fair to say, something of a traditionalist and objected to Robidoux having fixed a sponsor’s logo to the butt end.
He objected so much that he smashed the cue up into several pieces.
It could not be repaired and Robidoux was forced to start the following season with a new model. But it didn’t feel the same and he failed to win a single match the whole campaign.
“It was like losing my right arm,” he said.
His form gone, he plummeted down the rankings and considered quitting altogether after suffering from bouts of depression.
Several years later I asked him his views on the cue maker, thinking the passage of time may have eased his anger.
“I want to kill him,” was his heartfelt response.
Robidoux never recovered from the incident and eventually slipped off the tour.
He still plays in Canada and also commentates on pool in French for Canadian television.