It’s been a tough season for Neil Robertson so far but there are impressive signs of recovery after winning Group Four of the Championship League on Thursday.
The Australian struggled badly for results in the first half of the campaign, taking a long-awaited trip back to his home country over Christmas to see his family and come back fresh for the next six months.
The 41-year-old has also been working with his old friend and practice partner Joe Perry to find form and it appears to all be paying off after a strong showing in Leicester.
Robertson made the semi-finals of Group Three on Tuesday before losing out to John Higgins, but was back in the semis of Group Four on Thursday where he demolished Barry Hawkins 3-0 with breaks of 99, 135 and 67, without the Hawk scoring a point.
The Thunder from Down Under then edged out Kyren Wilson 3-2 in the final to book his spot in the Winners’ Group next month.
Thrilled with the win, but more importantly how he played, Robertson feels he is returning to something like his best form.
‘I definitely think so. I think with some of the matches I’ve played this week, I’ve been kind of unplayable at times,’ he said.
‘The long balls have been absolutely fantastic and I’ve changed my approach a little as to how I’m playing the long ones. I’m going back to how I used to play many years ago, pretty much everything plain ball. I’ve been backing myself to hit the centre of the white and my long potting has never been better, and my scoring’s fantastic was as well.
‘Barry only had maybe five shots in the semi-final, while Kyren and I threw the kitchen sink at each other in the final. The last frame was unbelievable, he just tried to do a bit too much with the safety shot and I could make a really good 50-odd break.
‘When you get to the final and you’ve already played a couple of groups, you want to advance to the Winners’ Group so it’s nice to head back to Cambridge and get a bit of practice in before the Welsh Open, so it’s really good.’
Robertson had looked good in the German Masters last week before a defeat to Kyren Wilson in the last 16, but he felt things improving in Berlin and has kept them up in Leicester ahead of the Welsh Open in Llandudno next week.
‘The signs were there in Germany last week, it took a really good performance from Kyren to beat me in that,’ he said. ‘I took all the positives from that and knew this week the Championship League is always a great opportunity to get really good match practice in against top players, that’s what I’ve been able to do this week, it’s made mre really enjoy competing again.
‘I went through a spell earlier in the season where I played one match a month for like four straight months, so you can’t really build any momentum. To be able to build that momentum, it’s gathering now and I’m looking forward to next week.’
Robertson joins Stuart Bingham, Chris Wakelin and Mark Selby in the Winners’ Group held on 1-2 March, with three more spots to be decided.
The Aussie is back in action on Monday against Jackson Page at the Welsh Open as he looks to save his ranking ahead of the World Championship starting in April.
There is the very real possibility that Robertson would face qualifying for the Crucible after such a poor season in ranking events, not helped by his impressive week in the non-ranking Championship League.
However, he does still have time to avoid the qualifiers, with the Welsh Open and World Open to come, but he will need to rack up a lot more wins to retain his top 16 place.
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