Neil Robertson, a snooker player blessed with a warrior-like temperament, today emerged victorious from a Beijing battle with Mark Selby to win his first world ranking title since he captured the 2010 World Open.
Robertson has been close several times this season. Today’s final was not the most aesthetically pleasing, and certainly not the quickest, but there was plenty of tactical skill on show and any victory over Selby in a long match is an achievement.
It was Selby who started slowly, making too many mistakes in the opening session and Robertson, though not at his very best, took advantage to carve out a 6-1 lead.
Some sort of Selby comeback was virtually guaranteed and he did pull back to 6-4 but Robertson was never going to buckle and his 10-6 victory is a pre-Crucible confidence boost.
It also means that, going into the World Championship, each of this season’s ranking events have been won by a different player.
I think Neil is a terrific competitor. He’s also a positive thinker, not a moaner and groaner. He has iron self belief and is single minded in the way so many champions of the past have been.
Nobody gave him anything. He had to work for it. He had to leave his family and relocate to the other side of the world to pursue his dreams.
So I admire him for what he has achieved. He is now, in terms of ranking titles, the most successful player ever from outside the UK.
And now all roads lead to Sheffield. The qualifiers for the Betfair World Championship begin on Thursday. The Crucible draw will be made at 1.30pm on April 15 live on Talksport.
The televised phase of the game’s greatest tournament get underway on April 20.
It’s the climax of the season and the campaign shows us that it’s wide open.