Neil Robertson Q&A
Neil Robertson Q&A
Neil, last season you won the UK Championship and the Wuxi Classic and made a record 103 centuries. How would you sum up the season overall?
It was definitely my best ever. It could have offered a lot more. After winning the UK Championship I had a couple of months where I didn’t play well, and I missed opportunities. Considering how well I played over the season, I could have won one or two more titles. But winning the UK and becoming the first non-British player to do the Triple Crown was huge. And getting the 100 centuries was, in my opinion, as good as winning an extra two ranking titles, in terms of where I am in my career and what I want to achieve. At the level I’m at now, you always want a little bit more. But overall I have to be really happy with the season and I have a lot to build on looking forward to 2014/15.
Obviously the century of centuries took a whole season to get to, how do you look back on that experience?
When I got around 60 the pressure started building on me to do it. Maybe it had a negative effect on some of my results – there were matches where I was thinking that if I lose I won’t be able to get any more centuries, whereas my focus should just have been to win matches and go deep in tournaments. It wasn’t that I was risking frames in order to try to make big breaks, it was more that I was conscious of trying to get the whole thing out of the way before the World Championship. I didn’t want it to be affecting matches in Sheffield. But I ended up going there on 93 which was quite a way off. When I got to 99 and then missed the black at the end of my second round match against Mark Allen, I didn’t realise what a negative impact it would have on my next match against Judd Trump. I went 6-2 down and I was still thinking about missing that black and the fact that I was stuck on 99. That’s the reason why I celebrated so much when I finally did it – because I had thought it wasn’t going to happen. It was really important to me to achieve it. Who knows, someone might do it again this season – but I’ll always be remembered as the first player to do it and that is a great honour. The few months building up to it was difficult because of the pressure piled on me, so if someone else is going for it, I’ll be interested to see how they handle it.
The season ended on a low note for you with a semi-final defeat against Mark Selby at the World Championship. Do you see that as one that got away?
Mark makes it very difficult for you. He plays a lot of containing shots and he doesn’t go out of his way to create chances, he lets you make mistakes through getting frustrated or playing a shot you shouldn’t play. To borrow a phrase from football, he plays on the counter attack. I was about five per cent off winning the match very comfortably. In the first two sessions every chance he got, he had an easy red to start with, because I left him chances by trying to make things happen when I shouldn’t have done. Towards the end of the match I was conscious of the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan had a day off, so if our match didn’t finish quickly, whoever won was going to be at a big disadvantage in the final. The first couple of sessions went slowly. Mark was carrying on at the end of frames when he needed four snookers, and quite a few frames went for 30 minutes or more. But the last session was a really good standard. Credit to Mark because he hung in there and played some solid snooker. In the final, as I expected he was tired in the early stages and went 10-5 down. He looked dead and buried at that stage. Ronnie let him off the hook in the first couple of sessions because he could have run away with it. At 10-7 overnight Mark was back in the match. He’s such a tough competitor and he seems to do well in the big tournaments. He gets a lot of flak for the way he plays sometimes but the most important thing for him was that he had to find a way to beat Ronnie, and he achieved it so you can’t fault him. If he had tried to attack he probably would have lost. If I had been in the final I would have played in a different way, I would have attacked, put pressure on Ronnie and tried to win the tournament in an attractive style. I’ve won it before so I wouldn’t have been in the win-at-all-costs mode, as Mark was. I was going to really give it a go and it would have been a great final to watch.
Do you think the same small group of players will dominate this season?
Ding, Ronnie and I were the standout players of last season. I know Mark Selby won the world title, but he didn’t have a great season before that. He scraped his way into a few finals without playing that well. Ronnie didn’t play in that many tournaments, but had a very high win percentage, while Ding won five ranking events. The previous season there was a different winner for every ranking event. This season – who knows? It might be a small group of players dominating or the titles might be shared around. I don’t think anyone will win five ranking titles, that was an amazing feat from Ding. He won an awful lot of matches in deciding frames and you need a lot of things to go your way. There will be a lot of hungry players this season because they haven’t won titles for a while – the likes of Judd Trump, Mark Allen and John Higgins.
Have you decided which events you will enter and skip this season?
There are a few gaps now over the summer, we have a few weeks off in July. I think a lot of the players will structure their seasons better than they have in previous years. I’ve already got a good idea of which tournaments I’m going to play in, and which ones I’ll miss. It will partly depend on how early I qualify for the Players Championship finals. Last season I possibly played in a couple of tournaments I didn’t have to, and as it turned out I performed badly in them. Someone might enter everything to try to make 100 centuries.
You are a lifelong Collingwood fan but since moving to England you have supported Chelsea in the ‘other’ version of football. How do those two passions compare?
It’s something I think about a lot. I tweet about football and Chelsea. I used to tweet about AFL as well, but I’ve got a lot more followers in the UK and Europe so I wasn’t getting that much feedback on the tweets about the AFL. I still watch all of the Collingwood games – I watched a few on TV with my dad when he was in the UK which was really cool. And I follow all of the AFL news online. I’m really passionate about both sports. I suppose living in England, I am more exposed to football and there’s more banter about it among the other snooker players like Joe Perry.