Neil Robertson beat Mark Williams in the first Masters semi-final, with both players having secured their places in the next round on a day of high-quality snooker. Robertson will now face the Englishman Barry Hawkins in the final, with the hope of being crowned the Masters champion, but it was his victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan that perhaps set him on the road to the final.
Coming into their semi-final, both players wiped out two-thirds of the Class of ’92, with Robertson taking revenge on Ronnie O’Sullivan for his recent loss in the World Grand Prix final with a 6-4 victory here. Williams, meanwhile, showed his class with a 6-5 victory over John Higgins, an impressive break of 91 carrying him over the line in a final-frame decider.
If Robertson was worried about his opponent, he didn’t show it – an easy opener led to a break of 119, and the Australian took the first frame. After a break of 41, Robertson was unlucky not to land on a red, but after O’Sullivan missed a difficult cut, he had another chance that he didn’t pass up. O’Sullivan hadn’t potted a ball in the first two frames, but he remedied that in frame three, securing a 65 break after a little safety battle and getting onto the scoreboard. The English player had another chance in frame four after Robertson missed a red to a middle pocket, and he soon drew level.
A battle of safety shots and long reds soon commenced after the mid-session interval, and neither man seemed ready to back down – they both took advantage, drawing level again at 4-4. O’Sullivan had a chance to punish Robertson in frame nine after a miss on a red, but he couldn’t capitalise, and his opponent moved one frame away from victory. After missing another long red, Robertson had the first chance in frame 10, compiling a break of 54 but then missing a brown of its spot. It threw a lifeline to his opponent, but one the six-time world champion couldn’t grab. A pressure red to left middle put the result beyond doubt.
If you can’t get up for this kind of event, you should hand your place to somebody else
– Neil Robertson
After his win, Robertson said: “I felt like I hit the ball fantastically well. Missed a couple of balls and so did Ronnie. That is to be expected. I think I put in a good performance. If you can’t get up for this kind of event, you should hand your place to somebody else.”
Much like Robertson, Higgins took the first two frames, winning the first with a strong break of 126 to announce his presence. It was a closer battle in frame two, both players missing awkward and difficult shots, but it was Higgins who got over the line. At this point, Williams came to the occasion, winning the next three frames in a row. He went in-off the pink after a break of 116, and Williams won the next battle in frame four – nerves started to show, with both players handing each other opportunities aplenty and struggling to take advantage.
After the mid-session interval, Williams took frame five after Higgins struggled to snooker him, but his opponent then roared back to level at 3-3. The Welshman won the next frame, then a break of 109 saw the Scotsman draw level. Higgins seemed to be on top in frame nine, but fouled on the black after a break of 43, giving Williams the chance to steal the frame. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake in frame 10, with a break of 61 securing the frame and moving things to a decider. For all the battles, though, it was a one-sided final frame, with Williams showcasing his technical expertise and his willingness to take shots other players would spurn to compile a break. After an unexpected plant, Higgins must have known it was over – if not, Williams’ break of 91 informed him.
Williams said: “I’ve never experienced anything like that. The crowd was unbelievable. The crowd must have been cheering for a few minutes before we started off, I couldn’t feel my legs in the chair. That’s the best intro I’ve ever had, I think John will probably say the same. Thanks to all the crowd because it made the occasion even more special. I thought it was a good game today, if we keep playing like that perhaps we’re going to be here for a few more years yet.”
Robertson will now face off against England’s Barry Hawkins, in the hope of being crowned the Masters champion, with the final taking place across today, the 16th of February.