Neil Robertson: Other Tournaments Need To Match Incredible Ally Pally Atmosphere

The Australian won the Masters for a second time with a comprehensive 10-4 victory over Barry Hawkins on Sunday night
22:05, 17 Jan 2022

Neil Robertson has urged the Crucible crowd to up their game as a spectacular Masters spectacle this year at Alexandra Palace laid down the gauntlet for the blue-riband Sheffield tournament. 

The 39-year-old Australian won the prestigious invitation tournament for a second time with a comprehensive 10-4 victory over Barry Hawkins on Sunday night.  

World No4 Robertson is now desperate to become a multiple world champion to join the greats, having come up short at the World Championship since his 2010 success.  

The Crucible is widely hailed and acknowledged as the spiritual home of the sport, with the most important event staged at the 980-capacity since 1977. 

Even if in an ideal world there would be a greater capacity and more facilities both in the arena and backstage in the building, the love for the Yorkshire venue has never dimmed. 

Four-time world champion John Higgins, 46, speaking last year, said: “You always get the butterflies when the World Championship is on the horizon. 

“It’s just a wonderful event. It’s the best place that you could ever wish to play snooker in. It’s got so much history to it, and it’s really magical. 

“I’ve played in the tournament every single year since my first time and I’ve been through every sort of emotion you can as a snooker player at the Crucible. 

“I’ve been through heartache, the biggest highs when I won it and it’s just a really special place.”

The Crucible
The Crucible

However, all of the top 16 players in action at Ally Pally were inspired by the raucous boxing-style atmosphere generated by a series of 2,000 sell-out crowds in north London this year. 

There have already been calls for World Snooker Tour to use more big-city venues like London and Sheffield - perhaps incorporating the likes of Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol - for other tournaments on the calendar even if they cost a little more.  

But Robertson has been impressed with the new panoramic Century Club restaurant overhanging the seats at one end of the table at Ally Pally, and the luxury VIP sofas at the other, underneath the TV studio and commentary areas. 

He said: “Having 2,000 fans at the Masters adds a lot to it. I feel the crowd at the Crucible can be really quiet, and it doesn’t feel like the World Championship in the early rounds.   

“The crowd have an impact, and only the best can thrive and win under those conditions. Sure, you get the occasional distraction, that is in the game and can happen.  

“People on social media have suggested having the World Championship here, I’m not sure about that. But all the improvements World Snooker have made to the Masters have made this tournament special, and the event that it now is.   

“We would rather have the hospitality areas, you want people to have a drink and enjoying live snooker.  

“I love my stats in snooker and all sports. This is my second Masters, and a sixth Triple Crown. I have won this twice, and the UK Championship three times.  

“So the one win sitting by itself is the World Championship. I have won multiples of just about everything else including the Champion of Champions and the China Open, and others.  

“But I have to win another world title to be considered among a small handful of greats.   

“I may be respected in the sport, but you have to be a multiple world champion to be in the discussion at the very top.”  

Six-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan hailed Robertson’s remarkable career – coming back to win so much having fallen off the tour early in his career.  

World No3 O’Sullivan, 46, said: “Neil has dedicated himself and even when he fell off the tour all those years ago and ran out of money, he came back to give it another go.  

“That is perseverance and faith in your ability, him telling himself that he could play the game better than he was.  

“He is climbing up that list of major winners, six of them now, and these are the ones you are judged by and want to win.”  

And on the Ally Pally crowds, he added: “The crowd at this tournament is like a New York crowd in the US Open tennis, it is a great arena with the table now surrounded on all sides.  

“The crowd at Goffs in Ireland was like that as well and created a tremendous atmosphere.”  

World No10 Hawkins, 42, plans to continue working with sports psychologist and performance coach Matthew Cunliffe who helped him beat three world champions to reach the final.  

He said: “Matt has worked with the GB Olympic and Paralympic teams, and has got all the qualifications coming out of his earholes. It is something I want to pursue. Let’s see if I can still improve at the age of 42.  

“I beat three world champions at the Masters and he was on the phone or sending me texts and WhatsApp messages. So let’s see if I can improve a bit still at the age of 42.  

“I had Terry Griffiths helping me for a long time, but this is a bit different. He is not a snooker coach and can’t help me with that, but most of it out there is in the mind.”  

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