Neil Robertson's World Championship challenge at the Crucible hots up
By Tom Harle
It is rare an Australian takes heed from a Brit when it comes to beating the heat but that is exactly what Neil Robertson has done as snooker sizzles at the World Championships.
The Cambridge-based cueman, crowned champion at the Crucible in 2010, reached the quarter-finals for a second successive year by beating Barry Hawkins 13-9.
Friday was the UK’s hottest August day in 15 years and with humidity levels rivalling Tokyo, organisers in Sheffield have been forced to pump up the air conditioning.
Robertson feels the move is essential but has changed the pattern of play and has been taking notes from Ronnie O’Sullivan in dealing with the rising mercury.
“You wouldn’t think about it as a factor in snooker at all but if we were playing without air conditioning, it would be unbearable,” said the 38-year-old.
“It creates a lot of dampness in the cloth and the balls, makes the pockets a little bit tighter and makes it harder to move the white around.
“It happens - Tiger Woods has never gone out and played four rounds of golf in perfect conditions and crisp every morning.
“I didn’t adjust last year but I think I’ve done really, really well this year
“You saw Ronnie be a very good exponent of how to change the way the frame is going and create scoring opportunities.
“Barry and I tried our best and I tried a few of Ronnie’s tactics to prevent the frames going on for too long.”
Robertson, ranked No 2 in the world heading into the blue riband tournament, shared two tight sessions with Hawkins and they were locked 8-8 ahead of the final session.
It looked set to be a nailbiter but Robertson came out far the sharper in Sunday’s action, capitalising on a Hawkins miss with the rest and firing in a half-century to go 9-8 up.
Robertson won the next two frames, making another 50 break in the 19th frame to take a 11-8 advantage.
Despite a defiant Hawkins century that helped him halt the slide ahead of the mid-session interval, Robertson got the two frames he needed to wrap up a 13-9 triumph.
Awaiting the Australian in the next round is another former winner in three-time Crucible champion Mark Selby, a clash Robertson agrees would be worthy of next Sunday’s final.
“A few of the last 16 matches could have been finals and this is another one,” he said.
“You can’t ease your way into this event any more. I remember when you were very comfortable coming into this event as a seed.
“It’s the other way around now where the majority of them are banana skins apart from maybe the debutants.
“Marky’s a three-time champion and he has similar kind of attributes to Barry - he keeps it very tight, fantastic safety, scores when he gets in always plays the right shot at the right time.
“You can’t really apply pressure on Mark rely on him giving away chances, so it’s going to be a tough game.”
*Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July -16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.