Yesterday was an extraordinary day at Ally Pally as both semi-finals went to a deciding frame. Neil Robertson emerged the winner of the afternoon match after a dramatic finish – he needed two snooker in the last frame – and Barry Hawkins won the last two frame to deny Judd Trump of a shot at the title.
Here are the reports by WST
Robertson Downs Williams With Epic Fightback
Neil Robertson is through to the Cazoo Masters final after winning a thrilling deciding frame, in which he required two snookers, to beat Mark Williams 6-5.
The Australian had hauled his way back from 4-1 and 5-3 down to make it 5-5 and force a final frame. Alexandra Palace was at fever pitch when both players took to the arena for the decider and the 2,000 strong crowd gave them a standing ovation. A break of 67 had appeared to be enough to take Welshman Williams into the final, when Robertson was left requiring two snookers.
However, a situation developed where the final red was placed on top of the black, which itself hung over the edge of the top left pocket. A nerve-shredding safety exchange unfolded. Williams did give four penalty points away, before playing a remarkable shot to dislodge the red and give himself breathing space.
World number eight Williams then spurned two opportunities to pot the red and put the match to bed. The tie came down to the colours and Robertson left Williams in a tricky snooker on the yellow. He hit the green when attempting a swerve and left Robertson his chance. The 2012 Masters winner pulled off a superb clearance of 27 to win on the black.
World number four Robertson now faces either Judd Trump or Barry Hawkins in tomorrow’s final over the best of 19 frames. The Paul Hunter Trophy and a top prize of £250,000 will be on the line.
The Melbourne cueman hasn’t appeared in a Masters title match since 2015, when he was soundly beaten by Shaun Murphy. He will be hoping to land a second Masters title tomorrow, ten years after his first. Robertson’s 2012 victory came after a 10-6 defeat of Murphy in the final.
At the beginning of the afternoon it was 1998 and 2003 Masters winner Williams who seized the early initiative. The three-time Crucible king was aiming to reach his first Masters final in 19 years. He defeated Stephen Hendry in the 2003 title match.
Breaks of 59, 71 and 60 had seen Williams establish a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval. When play resumed, a run of 60 helped him to move 4-1 ahead. Robertson then pulled one back, before firing in a run of 83 to turn up the heat and claw within a frame at 4-3.
A contribution of 91 then took Williams to the verge of victory. He had his chance to win in the next frame, but missed a black off the spot on 23. Robertson ruthlessly punished him by making 95 to keep the tie alive and make it 5-4.
The 2010 World Champion showed nerves of steel in the tenth frame, crafting a sublime century break of 119 to force the decider at 5-5. He then went on to clinch the win in the pulsating finale.
“We both left the arena before the deciding frame and came back to a standing ovation, it was bone chilling stuff. We just smiled at each other and realised how lucky we were to experience something like that,” said 39-year-old Robertson.
“To come back when I was literally out of the tournament, needing two snookers in the decider, was amazing. To land on the black where I couldn’t miss it was a nice feeling walking round the table. I have to enjoy the win, reset mentally and go again tomorrow.
“Any final is a great opportunity to win another trophy. I can’t allow myself to think what it will mean if I win or lose. I just have to play the best I can and when I shake my opponent’s hand I need to be gracious in defeat or humble in victory. The most important thing is to play my heart out and see what happens.”
Williams said: “I could have won it in the end and people may say I have thrown it away, but I don’t see it like that. I just think I lost a snooker match and I should have won it. I’ve got no grumbles.
“I’m not gutted at all, I’ve lost a snooker match. Best of luck to Neil. I did twitch a black off the spot to win 6-3 and that is the only one I’ve twitched all game. I’ve had a good week, the crowd has been fantastic and I’m out. I’ve got no problems.”
Here is a “condensed” version of the decider, shared by WST on YouTube
Hawkins Edges Thriller
Barry Hawkins won a pulsating semi-final encounter with Judd Trump 6-5 to set up a Cazoo Masters final showdown with Neil Robertson.
The Londoner’s first appearance in a Masters title match came back in 2016, when he also defeated Trump in the last four. He was emphatically beaten 10-1 by Ronnie O’Sullivan on that occasion.
Hawkins will be hoping for a closer contest tomorrow when he meets Robertson with a £250,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy on the line.
The Alexandra Palace crowd were also treated to final frame drama in this afternoon’s first semi-final, when Robertson came from requiring two snookers to beat Mark Williams.
It’s the first time both semi-finals have come down to a decider since 2002, when Paul Hunter beat Alan McManus 6-5 and Williams defeated Jimmy White by the same scoreline.
A tense 30-minute opening frame this evening came down to a safety exchange on the final blue. Eventually Hawkins deposited a superb long range pot and added the pink and black to move 1-0 up.
Trump responded immediately to draw level at 1-1 following a contribution of 86, before hitting the front by adding the third courtesy of a 63 break.
An important last frame before the mid-session also came down to the colours. Once again it was the Hawk who pounced, taking it on the pink to draw level at 2-2.
When play got back underway Hawkins continued his momentum as he pushed to establish a stranglehold on proceedings. Breaks of 60 and 124 helped him to move 4-2 ahead.
World number two Trump showed his resolve and bounced back with three in a row, including breaks of 65 and 54, to come within a frame of the win at 5-4. However, Hawkins refused to back down and ensured the tie went the distance with runs of 46 and 76 in the tenth.
Hawkins gained control in the decider by crafting a contribution of 58. Trump missed a difficult opportunity with a red to the left middle and that proved to be his final shot. Hawkins punched the air with joy after getting over the line and celebrated with the raucous and adoring London crowd.
“I’ve had a few big wins in the past, but that is definitely the biggest win in terms of playing in front of that many people, the prestige of the event and playing against Judd,” said 42-year-old Hawkins.
“I couldn’t help but celebrate at the end. It was a massive occasion, a massive event and a massive crowd. All my friends and family were up there. I was giving them something to cheer as well, but inside I was bubbling. Getting closer and closer to that winning line it was building. It was completely natural and it got the crowd going. It was an unbelievable feeling.
“I’ve got a mountain to climb against Neil tomorrow. He is an unbelievable player and you don’t fancy him to miss a ball with that cue action of his. I have to block all of that out, forget who I’m playing and concentrate on what I’m doing. I will enjoy every moment of it and try my best. ”
Trump said: “I felt good and felt like I’d take my chance at the end but I just didn’t get any. That is just the way the game goes. He completely shut me out from 5-4. I made a mistake and let him in straight away. You can’t do that at this level and it went 5-5. I was just hoping for half a chance and I didn’t get any.
“Everyone will be happy for him. He has been to quite a few major finals now and he is one of the nicest guys on tour. Neil is also a great guy so it will be a great final.”
Mark Selby reveals mental health struggles after Masters exit
Mark Selby has revealed that he is struggling with his mental health and will seek help to improve the situation after his exit from the Masters on Friday night.
The world champion and world number one was beaten 6-1 by Barry Hawkins in the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace on Friday, a performance he described as ‘rubbish’ and was certainly well below par for a player of his quality.
He has since revealed that he is suffering mentally and admits he was putting a ‘brave face on it’ this week in London.
There was no need to, but Selby has apologised to friends and family for ‘letting them down’ in the Hawkins game, but they will all just be hoping he can be well again as soon as possible.
Selby tweeted: ‘Just want to apologise to all my friends and family for letting them down. Mentally not in a good place at moment, had a relapse and trying to bottle it up and put a brave face on is not the way. I promise I will get help and become a better person #mentalhealth.’
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has responded, offering support to the world number one and any other player who needs it.
‘The WPBSA is not just a governing body, it is a members association which includes a players support body for players on the World Snooker Tour,’ said Ferguson.
‘We are always sorry to hear if any of our players are going through difficult times, support is there for Mark and any other playing member on the WST.’
Selby had tweeted after the game last night and, while disappointed, was looking towards his return to the table and wished his good friend Hawkins all the best for the rest of the event.
‘Well I don’t think I could play that bad if I tried too!!!!’ Selby tweeted. ‘Good luck to Barry I so hope he wins it! Shootout here we come.’
Selby has spoken out about his mental health struggles before, explaining dealing with depression at last year’s Masters.
‘It is tough,’ he said. ‘When people are going through depression it’s very tough and times like this don’t make it any easier because you’re locked in your house and you have so much time to think about stuff.
‘When I was going through it – and even now I’m still on the medication to this day – I went to see the professional people and they were telling me to do things that you enjoy and you try to keep your mind active. But it’s difficult when you go through times like this because the things you do enjoy you cannot go and do.
‘The only thing you can do is speak to the professional people. Speak to your family and cry for help and get them to help you as well.’
I wish Mark the best and hope he will feel much better soon.
Ronnie was in the Eurosport studio and reflected on what Mark could possibly do to avoid putting too much strain on his mental health:
“It can be tough,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport. “But you have to make a decision whether you are going to rule it, or it rules you.
“There are two camps to be in. I chose to go the other way and be a bit more carefree, and treat it like a bit of fun.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET INVOLVED IN THE MUSTARD, YOU HAVE GOT TO TAKE ON ALL THAT COMES WITH IT.
“It is a tough sport, mentally it is tough.
“You have just got to get in and take the battle scars. If you want to be a top player, world champion, winning tournaments like he does, you have to put yourself through the mill. Or you take a step back and lower the intensity, enjoy it and not win as much.
“You have to choose one or the other.”
I don’t think Mark Selby is ready for that just yet.
As for today, Neil Robertson will start favourite, but Barry, a Londoner, will have a lot of support and he’s more than capable if he can stay calm. It’s his second Masters final. In 2016 he was beaten 10-1 by Ronnie. I would be very surprised though if he was to lose heavily today. I expect the match to be close.