Neil Robertson won the BGC Masters for the first time by beating Shaun Murphy 10-6 in the final at Alexandra Palace, maintaining his perfect record in major finals.
The Australian with an outstanding all-round game was a deserved winner of the trophy and £150,000 top prize after out-playing Murphy in an exciting final at the tournament’s new home in North London.
From 3-3, Robertson pulled away to win six of the next seven frames, and survived a brief flurry from his opponent to become the fourth overseas player to win snooker’s most prestigious invitation event, after South Africa’s Perrie Mans, Canada’s Cliff Thorburn and China’s Ding Junhui.
The Melbourne cueman’s ability to mix long potting and break-building with tactical nous and flawless shot selection, along with a steady temperament, led Murphy to suggest afterwards that Robertson has eclipsed John Higgins as snooker’s most complete player.
Robertson, age 29, has now won all seven major finals he has contested, winning six full ranking events and now the Masters. It’s an exceptional record for a player who clearly thrives on the big occasion.
The Cambridge-based cueman had never previously been past the quarter-finals of this event, but produced a series of excellent performances this week to beat Mark Allen, Mark Williams, Judd Trump and then Murphy.
Englishman Murphy was aiming to become only the eighth player in the history of snooker to win the World, UK and Masters titles. But after playing brilliantly last night to beat John Higgins in the semis, he failed to reproduce that standard and was forced to settle for the £75,000 second prize.
Trailing 5-3 after the first session, Murphy halved his deficit in the first frame tonight with a break of 49. Robertson hit back to win frame ten with his second century of the match, a 101.
Frame 11 was the scrappiest of the match as Robertson went ahead with a break of 35 then controlled the remainder, picking off single reds with a series of cracking long pots. Two breaks of 76 in the next two frames saw him to the brink of victory at 9-4.
Murphy, with nothing to lose, got his cue arm going and took the next two frames without conceding a point thanks to runs of 52 and 86.
But when he left Robertson the chance of a long red early in frame 16, the Aussie knocked slotted it home to initiate a match-winning break of 70 before celebrating with partner Mille and their 18-month old son Alexander.
Robertson was told in his post match press conference that Murphy had described him as snooker’s best all-round player and responded: “When I first came on the scene I was very attacking. I had no clue about tactics and it’s a big thanks to Joe Perry and Mark King who I’ve been practicing with over the years, and it’s led to this moment. I couldn’t have done it without their advice over the years. I can’t really explain how nice it is for someone like Shaun to say something like that because he is very genuine with everything he says. He’s a great champion and obviously he was going for a huge piece of history here tonight, not many players have won all three (the World, UK and Masters), but I’m sure he will win here one day and he gave me one hell of a scare.
“If it had got to 9-8 it would have been tough. One thing the crowd really love here is a comeback or an underdog and they really cheer them on. I knew I had to be patient and hope he would leave me a shot. The two frames he won I didn’t even really get a shot so I knew he could do that. Ding lost the Wuxi Classic final to him from 8-2 up so I was definitely aware of his capabilities from behind. I was just looking for one good chance, and thankfully it came in that last frame.
“The run of winning major finals won’t last forever. Obviously I’m confident going into finals because I have a great record. I always fancy my chances.
“At the end I could hear Alexander screaming a bit when I was potting the winning balls, probably wanting me to hurry up, he wants to go to bed and get his milk! That was really nice, he just started clapping, he is at the age where he copies everything he sees!”
Asked for his opinion on Barry Hearn’s snooker revolution, Robertson added: “Barry’s done wonders for the sport, he has given us all a big kick up the backside. In the past when I won a tournament I could take a couple of months off just chill out and not do anything. But now I’m playing in the Championship League tomorrow morning! That’s helped me remain consistent.
“I won’t take my foot off the gas this time. I was a little bit lazy before, not going to the club when I should have, but I have learnt from that and I have to keep going because we are playing so many tournaments.”
Murphy was disappointed to lose but pleased by his run to the final. He said: “My real attacking power has come back and it gives me a good chance to build on this going forward for the rest of the season. It’s too early to look at the World Championship just yet, we’ve got a lot of snooker to go between now and Sheffield, but I’ve been able to play very well in a major championship.
“Neil has become one of, if not the best in the game. His scoring ability, mixed with his tactical prowess, has probably over-taken John Higgins now. Nearly every time I came to the table I was in trouble, and he scored very well, picked up on all of my errors. The difference between us today was that my safety play just wasn’t as good as his.
“I never believed the match had gone, I believed right up to the point where he potted the balls in the last frame that I could still get back into it. At 9-6 I really thought I could move on to bigger and better things. But in the next frame I left a long red and it was match over.
“The crowd really got behind me and helped me along. There were times when I could have let my head drop but the crowd were supportive. I have had a lot of friends come down from Manchester and Sheffield and I would like to thank them for supporting me. The crowd in general have been amazing to me all week, its been fantastic and I look forward to coming back next year.”