Neil Robertson Reaches Tour Championship Semi With Five Centuries vs Mark Allen

It was a dominant start to his title defence
10:00, 30 Mar 2022

Neil Robertson got the defence of his Tour Championship title off to an ominous start for the rest of the field by making five century breaks on Tuesday as he held off a battling comeback bid from Mark Allen to reach the semi-finals in Llandudno. 

The Australian is guaranteed no matter what happens in north Wales to go into April’s Betfred World Championship as one of the leading contenders as he seeks to win the blue-riband prize for a second time, having lifted the trophy in 2010. 

And the idea of heading to Sheffield having again won this prestigious tournament reserved only for the best eight-performing players of the current season would be no bad preparation, even if it did not work out the way he might have hoped 12 months ago at the Crucible. 

In what was a strange, rollercoaster two-session contest world No4 Robertson led 7-0 at one stage in the afternoon with a whitewash seeming a real danger for Northern Ireland’s Allen, only to run out a 10-6 winner having held off a gutsy fightback from the Antrim pro. 

There was brilliance from the Thunder from Down Under at the start, and then again at the end as he closed the match out with back-to-back centuries making a match total of five tons, plus other efforts of 76, 94 and 68. But in between Allen got as close as 8-6 without ever playing that well. 

Robertson, who will play either Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Williams in the semis, said: “I am experienced enough not to panic even when you see a big lead disappearing, it was really credit to Mark for battling hard to get back. 

“And I showed with the last two frames and centuries how good I was still feeling. That was how I started the match, and if I am being super-greedy it should have been 8-0. 

“I played fantastically well in the first session, brilliant really, and then Mark was just very focused and determined in the second session. He was very cautious not to leave me chances and kept things super-tight. 

“I didn’t really do a lot wrong or miss much, his safety was fantastic and the balls went pretty scrappy so there weren’t a lot of opportunities – although I did miss a couple, a red that would have in all likelihood made it 8-2.

“If there was a script written for Mark tv get back into it, the match was following it as he had a few flukes and wasn’t making mistakes, or letting me in to use my scoring power. 

“I got 8-4 up to get breathing space again but all f a sudden it is 8-6. And then he missed something, and I have made a good century, and then another one off the first long red I could go at for ages. 

“So when I got my chances I was still playing well, it was just that Mark did a really good job in shutting me out from 7-0 up.” 

Record seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, watching in the TV studio, has been consulted by Robertson over the years about being more ruthless with his break-building. 

He said: “Neil wasn’t as focused in the early part of the evening because he knew basically the match was won. But the way he played in the afternoon and at the end was awesome. And when he plays like that, it really send out a warning to the rest of the field. 

“He will be delighted with the way he played in the afternoon, and then finished it with the two centuries. But he will be annoyed with the way it went in the evening. Mark consciously decided to slow the game down in the evening, only for Neil to pick up the pace again at the end.” 

Ireland’s Ken Doherty, the 1997 world champion, said: “He has arrived at this event with three tournaments won this season already and supremely confident. 

“Without doubt he is the man in form and it is giving to take some real snooker and a player to play out of their socks to beat him in Llandudno and also at the World Championship.” 

World No11 Allen, 36, said: “In the first session I was awful, and Neil was just scoring off my bad errors. I played terrible safety and was very poor, and 7-0 was what I deserved for what I had produced, there was nothing from me. 

“I gave myself half a sniff in the evening but the damage had been done earlier. I am never going to give up no matter what the scoreline is, you can always win the next frame. I tried to take that mindset into the evening and have some positive thoughts.  

“And at least I battled well, fought well and made him work for it still without playing particularly well. That’s why I was annoyed I missed the brown with a rest at 8-6, because that let him back in. The longer it went on, the more it would have been in his head about the big lead going.” 

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