Neil Robertson can relax again: he is no longer world champion. Somebody else can carry that burden.

That may sound like a strange statement but first time world champions have always played with the sure knowledge that they are the guy to be shot at and, as the season winds inexorably towards the Crucible, the moment of truth is approaching.

It was noticeable that Robertson played well in the early part of last season, winning the World Open, but not so well in the second half.

This was perhaps a subconscious reaction to the fact the World Championship was coming round again.

As Shakespeare wrote: ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’ Well, Robertson’s immaculately coiffeured head can rest more easily now.

Neil is one of my favourite players to watch. He’s a great talent and a great competitor too, which don’t always go together.

Remember, he has appeared in six ranking tournament finals and won them all, which is suggestive of a strong temperament and ability to cope with pressure.

He is particularly good at identifying the crucial part of a match and seizing upon an opponent’s weakness at the right time.

He is the only player to win a ranking title in each of the last five calendar years (2006-2010).

Robertson remains one of the eight or nine players most likely to win the big titles but I’m sure would rather be in an even smaller field than that.

He did, after all, become world no.1 last season but ended the campaign in fifth place.

So the possibility of him becoming the game’s dominant figure after his Crucible triumph didn’t really materialise, at least not yet.

One sure sign that he’s the real deal is that he’s not someone you hear other players questioning in terms of weaknesses in his game.

In fact, his only real weakness is in preparation. Last season this reached farcical levels when he lost his passport and arrived in Berlin not long before his first round match, which he of course lost.

Actually, this laidback persona is a good thing in a sportsman because it means they stay relaxed and don’t fret or let things get to them.

There’s a difference, though, between being laidback and flat out horizontal.

This isn’t a criticism of Neil because his life is (happily) complicated by having a young son and no family nearby to share the load with him and his partner.

How proud Robertson must be to have a fully fledged ranking tournament in Australia, something he must take some of the credit for due to his performances on the world stage.

Next month his home fans, family and friends will get the chance to watch him play close up as a professional. For many of them it will be for the first time.

What they will see is one of snooker’s modern greats. Beneath that laidback exterior is a tough as old boots competitor now freed from the shackles of expectation that come with being world champion.

And that makes him more dangerous than ever.


kildare cueman said...

Great player Robertson, and is very strong in most departments, but in order to become an all time great, you need to be able to win consistently, and I dont think Neil has the close cueball control to do this.

Sure, when hes at his best, or even near his best he can beat anybody, but players like Higgins, Williams and O'Sullivan can win consistently beacause on a bad day their cueball control ensures that they can still make frame winning breaks. Indeed, one of the reasons Davis and White are still going is that very reason.

On a positive note for Robertson fans, Mark Williams and even Hendry, were far more dependant on their long potting than on position when they started out, so it is something that can be improved on.

That aside, his temperament and long potting, and his ability to grind out frames, have probably put him at the top of his generation so far. That is, Ding, Murphy, Maguire and Selby. There is no reason to suggest he wont become an all time great eventually.

Anonymous said...

good post kc

jamie brannon said...

I think Robertson is a fantastic but it is too early for him to be classed as a great player.

He has won only one of the 'big 3' events. In golf or tennis you wouldn't be considered a great player if you have won one major or slam.

I know people think I'm being pedantic but greatness is about winning the absolute biggest tournaments multiple times in the way that Williams, Hendry and others have done.

I still think Neil can acheive the staus of a great, though, he has enough time on his side and agree wholeheartedly with Dave about his game having no significant weakness.

His dip in form surprised me as to capture the World Open made me feel that any pressure of being champion of the world had eased.

I like watching his cue power, although in the balls not one of the great stylists.

jamie brannon said...

What I don't get in the first comment is you say Robertson is a great player but not an all-time great. For me, there is no difference, although Willie Thorne seems to be partial to this different meaning.

Enjoying this series of articles Dave, be interesting to see who gets included.

Witz78 said...

As much as it pains me to say, Higgins has won a title in the last 5 calendar years too if you class 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 as the last 5 ;)

kildare cueman said...

4.35, Anyone in the top 8 at any time is a great player.

All time greats are players like Davis, Hendry, White, O'Sullivan, Higgins, etc.

Anonymous said...

all time greats are joe d, reardon, davis and hendry

Anonymous said...

7.18, yawn, another numbers obsessive. Some of Joe Davis opponents were barely able to hold a cue and there was no century in the first 5 or 6 world championships. He would have struggled to take a frame off John Higgins, who has more or less taken over from hendry as the all time greatest.
How would you judge greatness. four world titles now, 6 in the 90s, 80s, or 70s, or whatever JD won when he invented the game. No contest.

Anonymous said...

anon 4.57pm

Higgins doesn't know just how lucky he was to not have met a peak hendry during the WC believe me Hendry would have taken him apart.

Anonymous said...

agreed 1048
jh used to pick balls out pockets all day long when he practised with a peak hendry. ask them!

Anonymous said...

Agree that his touch in the balls is not the same as Higgins, Williams or Ronnie, but as said before his cue power and long potting are second to none. I have sometimes wondered if that's a trade off he has to make with the kind of cue he uses? His is one of the older JP's I think, whereas maybe a lot of players are using stiffer more modern cues. It could just be technique...but maybe the extra responsiveness of his cue makes it harder to play touch shots like Higgins, etc.

Dimitris said...

He played world class snooker in the final. A clinical break of 68 to win in the final frame. Unbeatable in finals ...hmmmm....