The usual strange schedule of the World Grand Prix on ITV meant that yesterday we saw the conclusion of the QF rounds and the first semi-final.
Neil Robertson explained the debt of thanks he owes to fiancée Mille after beating Joe Perry 5-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Coral World Grand Prix.
Kyren Wilson edged out John Higgins 5-4 and will meet Robertson in the semis in Cheltenham on Saturday evening .
In 2017 he revealed that Mille, his long term partner and mother of their children Alexander and Penelope, had been suffering from anxiety and depression for two years. Her health has since improved, and Robertson himself feels that more stability in his family life has helped him to succeed in his career on the baize.
“As a family we had well documented issues away from the table. I wouldn’t be in this position now if it wasn’t for Mille,” said the 37-year-old. “I’m really motivated to do it for her. When I get home I can’t complain about being tired because I’m playing a lot of matches as she is looking after Penelope who is only sleeping four hours a night – if I did she’d probably kick me out!
“The happiness away from the table is key. I can go to tournaments and know that everything is good at home, and that makes a big difference. That’s one of the challenges for players with families, there are factors away from snooker to take into account.”
In today’s contest between two close friends, Perry took the opening frame with an excellent 62 clearance, but from that point Robertson dominated. Runs of 47 and 40 gave him the second frame than an 86 put him 2-1 up. A superb 140 total clearance in the fourth extended his advantage and made him the new front runner for the £10,000 high break prize.
Frame five came down to a safety exchange on the blue, which went in Robertson’s favour as he moved 4-1 in front. And breaks of 31 and 41 in the sixth saw him into his 39th ranking event semi-final.
“I was having one of those days where I was going for any long balls and they were going in,” he added. “When that’s happening I feel fantastic about my game. I don’t think Joe did much wrong, other than perhaps miss the chance to go 3-2. I’m not thinking much about winning, I’m just going out there and playing, and I believe my best is good enough.”
Wilson followed up yesterday’s win over Judd Trump with a hard-fought victory over Higgins which lasted three hours and 52 minutes. It’s his first win over Higgins in a ranking event and the Warrior is through to his first ranking semi-final since October’s World Open.
Kettering’s Wilson made the bigger breaks today, compiling runs of 64, 89 and 74, but found himself 4-3 down as Higgins got the better of the fragmented frames. But four-time World Champion Higgins missed chances to seal victory in frame eight and Wilson eventually took it thanks to an excellent long pot on the last red.
In the decider, runs of 25 and 37 gave Wilson a 62-0 lead, then Wishaw’s Higgins had a chance to counter but made just 17 before missing a tricky red to a centre pocket. He later got two of the three snookers he needed, only for Wilson to pot the brown to remain on course for a fourth career ranking title.
“It’s one of the best wins of my career, not in terms of the performance but because of the stature of my opponent, he is one of the all-time greats,” said 28-year-old Wilson. “John and Mark Selby are the two players you don’t want coming at you when they need snookers in the deciding frame. I felt like I was in snookers for about half an hour. John sticks in there right until the end even when it looks like he is beaten.
“I wasn’t showing much form coming into this tournament. I have just been trying to enjoy it this week, having a bit of fun with the crowd, not thinking too much and trying to play the balls as I see them.”
A disappointed Higgins said: “The top players would have closed that match out. For the last couple of years I haven’t been one of the top players so that’s what happens. When I had the chance in the last frame I fancied clearing up but I played a terrible positional shot from pink to red, with a bit of adrenaline going I nipped into the white too much.”
Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch a lot of snooker, first time in many days.
I may be expecting too much, but, in my eyes, Joe Perry was pretty dreadful yesterday, except in the first frame, and Neil Robertson’s victory was never in doubt. Neil himself played OK, but wasn’t at his best. His long potting was excellent, and he had two big breaks, including a 140, for now the highest break of the event. But overall his positinal game and cue ball control weren’t that great.
Kyren Wilson did beat John Higgins without playing really well at all, at least not when I was watching, after the conclusion of the Robertson v Perry match. It was a very fragmented game. Kyren’s cue ball control isn’t the best, or should I say, not at the same level as other parts of his game. There wasn’t a single big break from either player in the last three frames. John Higgins is clearly low in confidence and, when hearing him assessing his performances, you almost have the feeling that he’s giving up on any further career ambition. Yesterday, the win went to the one who had the most fight in him.
If both play in similar ways today, Neil Robertson should beat Kyren Wilson.
The 42-year-old Scot, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in Thursday’s quarter-finals, will face either Neil Robertson or Kyren Wilson in the final on Sunday at Cheltenham Racecourse, with the winner to bank £100,000.
Dott’s only previous ranking event wins came at the 2006 World Championship and 2007 China Open, so a 13-year gap between titles would eclipse the 12 years which separated Jimmy White’s victories at the 1992 UK Championship and 2004 Players Championship.
World number 21 Dott, who is now guaranteed £40,000, is into his tenth career ranking final and first since the 2018 Shoot Out. He was a semi-finalist at last week’s German Masters and has now gone one better.
In a high quality contest tonight which featured a century and seven more breaks over 50, Dott started strongly as runs of 81 and 67 gave him the first two frames.
He was on a break of 50 in the third when he accidentally touched a red with his shirt cuff, the foul well spotted by referee Desislava Bozhilova. That proved a turning point as Ford hit back to snatch the frame with a 37 clearance, and he made a 66 in the next to level at 2-2.
Larkhall’s Dott regained the lead after the interval, then Ford fired runs of 91 and 89 to lead 4-3. Back came Dott with 70 and 103 to go 5-4 ahead. A run of 38 put Dott in control of frame ten, and after a brief safety exchange he thumped in a long red and added 14 points which proved enough.
“Tonight’s win feels better than beating Ronnie,” said three-time Crucible finalist Dott. “When I beat Ronnie I had my game, whereas tonight I was struggling, I was losing the white constantly. It was good to show some bottle and stand up because I could have crumbled at 4-3.
“The foul at 2-0 threw me because I really felt comfortable up until then. I found it hard to settle after that. If I had gone 3-0 then Tom wouldn’t have been able to get into the match.
“It does feel like 13 years since the last one I won – in fact it feels like longer. I’m not exactly a prolific winner. I have been playing well and feeling as if this has been coming all season. The pleasing part is that when I don’t have my game I am still able to play to a decent standard.
“I’ll be ready for the final but it will be tough, especially if it’s against Neil because he’s playing so well. I just want to get involved in the match – give me 6-6 on Sunday night and I’ll fancy it.
“Tomorrow I’ll just practise and laze about, eat as much junk food as I possibly can…just a normal day for me!”
It was indeed an excellent, and entertaining, match. Tom Ford lost but the improvements in his attitude and mindset are remarkable and, if he persists, he might well become a top 16 player very soon. Graeme Dott, as I wrote yesterday, is a much underrated player. Depression has ruined his career for the best part of the last 12 years. But, for what we saw in recent weeks, he’s back, and if he can keep that up, beware, he’s World Champion material, with the iron will to win and the grit that goes with it.
If he can play tomorrow like he did to beat Ronnie and Tom, I fancy him to win the title and nobody will want to face him in Sheffield!