Image: Wikimedia Commons / LezFraniak
Image: Wikimedia Commons / LezFraniak

Neil Robertson wins the 2022 Masters

Neil Robertson has won the 2022 Masters, getting his hands on the Paul Hunter trophy for the second time. A dominant Robertson proved too strong for opponent Barry Hawkins, winning comfortably 10-4 at Alexandra Place.

The Australian last won this title in 2012 and, after a slow start to the season (not least because he took time out to get married), we’re seeing hints of his form once again. He’ll be looking to win a second World Championship this year, and this match demonstrated he certainly still has the ability to do so, playing great even though he wasn’t fully firing.

For Hawkins, his dream run failed to be realised in the final. His path there was laden with some big scalps – he beat both Mark Selby and Judd Trump, the world numbers one and two respectively, and took out Shaun Murphy in the first round. But he failed to really show up in the final and, despite the backing of the crowd, he rarely seemed in control of the match.

Hawkins drew first blood, after a nervy opening frame that could have gone either way. Runs of 21 and 41 put Hawkins at the snookers-required stage of frame two, and the Englishman left a red to right middle – a break of 50 put Robertson on the scoreboard. He swiftly built a break of 105 to go 2-1 ahead, but Hawkins levelled after a scrappy fourth frame.

In frame five, Hawkins looked to be in the ascendancy, making a 60 break before fouling the green with his sleeve. Hawkins had two opportunities for frame ball and missed both, something that always proves costly against a player of Robertson’s calibre. The Australian took the next frame, and a snooker battle in frame seven ended with Hawkins fluking the ball he needed to take the frame. Robertson built a break of 73 before missing the red that would have guaranteed he was over the line. But, with two snookers required, Hawkins decided not to drag things out, and the afternoon session finished at 5-3 to Robertson.

Every match has thrown up a lot of challenges. It’s so fantastic to hear London cheer again for a snooker tournament

– Neil Robertson

Come the evening, Hawkins was going to have to go big or go home, and it didn’t look likely as Robertson claimed the first frame of the session. In frame 10, however, Hawkins made his best break of the match with 69, and his opponent conceded after he missed an awkward black he needed. But, from then on, Robertson was in control, swiftly building a break of 68 to extend his lead to three frames once again. That soon grew to four, and Hawkins could do nothing but sit in his chair as Robertson made a break of 114 to move one frame from victory. There were nervy misses from the Australian in the final frame, but Hawkins was unable to take advantage – a break of 47 was all he needed to clinch a dominant win.

After the match, Robertson reflected that much of his preparation was shaped by the incredible safety battle with Mark Williams in the semi-final: “I got about 300 text messages telling me I have never seen anything like it [the semi-final] and coming in everyone was saying ‘what about yesterday?’. I think Barry was a little bit unlucky being in the second semi-final where he wins 6-5. Roles reversed, he could have won today.

“With the players that I’ve had to beat, it certainly has to be right up there. Every match has thrown up a lot of challenges. It’s so fantastic to hear London cheer again for a snooker tournament.”

Hawkins said: “I am not too disappointed because I’ve had a great week – one of the best of my life. There’s been an unbelievable atmosphere and I’ve played some unbelievable matches. I made too many mistakes today and you can’t do that against someone like Neil because he’s a wonderful player.”

The match, while not as exciting as some of the other games this week, showcased snooker at its best – the top players putting on a show in front of a very receptive crowd, generating a huge buzz around the sport. The stage is set for a good year of snooker to come.

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