Neil Robertson was all smiles at the weekend, as the Aussie #Snooker sensation clinched the prestigious UK title in York by beating China’s Liang Wenbo in the final. The 10-5 victory was made even sweeter by his maximum 147 break en route to the winning line, the first time that notable milestone had been achieved in a UK Championship final.
With Ronnie O’Sullivan again conspicuous by his absence from another major event on the global snooker calendar, Robertson was the dominant force throughout the competition. He was too powerful when it mattered most against the other major contenders for the crown. After edging out the resurgent John Higgins in the quarter-finals 6-5, he thrashed the usually competitive Mark Selby 6-0 in the semis.
Chinese surprise package
Meeting him in the deciding contest at the Barbican was the 28-year-old Chinese surprise package, Liang. Snooker’s governing body would no doubt have been equally delighted with the Asian finalist’s efforts as the man himself. Not only a new face, but a clear opportunity to continue their hoped for development globally with China already having strong interest in the sport.
Former world number one, Robertson was always in control in the final and led 5-3 at the interval. That session of play included a century for the Aussie in addition to his maximum break in frame six, after Liang had calmed his own nerves with a break of 110 to claim frame three.
Missed maximum by Thai player
Earlier in the week Robertson had almost witnessed first-hand another maximum break for Thepchaiya Un-Nooh during their third round meeting. But the Thai player had rather unbelievably missed a relatively simple final black and went on to lose the match as well. Robertson was in no mood to repeat that feat, pausing deliberately before taking his final shot and punching the air in delight after the ‘perfect’ break was completed.
Aussie’s final surge
Liang had a wonderful week in York and a century break in the final demonstrated a big-time appetite. He was still very much in the final when trailing 7-5 before the Aussie surged clear to take the next three frames and with that the UK title itself. Frame-winning scores by Liang of 86, 82 and 78 not only illustrated the standard required to nick a frame off Robertson in this mood, but also a sound break-building ability going forward.
Liang came into the major competition as a rank outsider, ranked at world number 29 and having never tasted the ultimate glory of a ranking event title win. However, after defeating David Grace 6-4 in his semi-final encounter, he showed his elation by jumping in the air to dispel all thoughts that he may lack emotion. Expect more of the unexpected from him in the future, judging by his form in York.
The 33-year-old Melbourne-born player’s reputation in the game continues to grow. His third 147 of an already impressive career ably demonstrated that he has all the tools required in the modern-day game to be successful. This was his second UK title in three years, backing up the World crown he bagged in 2010 and the Masters’ title success in 2012. Over the 2013/14 season he made yet more snooker history, becoming the first player to score 100 centuries in a single season.
No ‘Rocket’ at event
O’Sullivan missed the championships and there will be many wondering if his extended leave of absence may become permanent in due course. Having achieved so much in the sport does he still have the desire to chase the landmarks that still elude him, such as Stephen Hendry’s record seven world titles? Will his snooker life begin again after reaching 40 years of age at the weekend or will it prove to be a time to move on permanently to new ventures? We will wait and see.