Snooker

Robertson claims more records will tumble on ‘exhibition table’ – WST deny pockets are bigger

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Neil Robertson

Image credit: Getty Images

ByEurosport
21/06/2020 at 09:45 | Updated 22/06/2020 at 05:23

Neil Robertson believes the “exhibition table” at the Tour Championship means Stephen Maguire will not be the only one breaking records this week.

Maguire became the first player to hit six centuries in a best-of-17 frame match when beating Robertson 9-5 on Saturday, while eight centuries in one match over that distance is also a new record.

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Robertson said on Twitter the pockets were the biggest he’s ever played on behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, although the 2010 world champion did stress he was “lucky” to be playing again amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport's organisers World Snooker Tour insist the pockets are not any bigger in the one-table set-up at the Marshall Arena despite the heavy scoring that saw world number two Robertson suggest afterwards it was comparable to "9 ball pool".

A WST spokesperson told Eurosport: "As with all our events, the pockets are set to regulation tournament templates. We always endeavour to provide the best playing conditions possible."

Saturday's Tour Championship report

Desmond Kane writes...

Stephen Maguire produced the greatest performance of his 22-year career with an astonishing six centuries in an outstanding 9-5 win over Neil Robertson at the Tour Championship.

The Scotsman – winner of the 2004 UK Championship and the 2019 UK Championship runner-up – produced snooker from the Gods to reach the semi-finals of the elite eight-man event behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

Maguire was only in the event involving the top eight on the one-year ranking list after Ding Junhui opted not to travel from China to participate in the penultimate tournament before the delayed World Championship begins in Sheffield on 31 July.

The Milton man is the first player to hit six centuries in a best-of-17 frame match while eight centuries in one match over that distance is also a new record.

Despite being short of match practice, Maguire looked in the form of his life as he matched Robertson's two centuries of 100 and 103 in the afternoon session with 117 and 108 of his own helping him restore parity at 4-4 having led 3-1 only for the world number two to move 4-3 clear.

Playing without fans certainly seemed to benefit 'The Maverick' as he raised his game several gears in the evening session to swamp his opponent with a blistering scoring streak that few players in the game could match.

What If...? | Steven Maguire

00:00:58

To put it into context, world number one Judd Trump hit a record seven centuries in his 18-9 win over John Higgins in the world final at the Crucible a year ago, but Maguire managed only one less over half the distance.

Maguire's fellow Scot and former practice partner Stephen Hendry once produced seven centuries in a 10-5 win over Ken Doherty in the 1994 UK Championship final, but this was equally as special.

Maguire knocked in 104, 135, 127 and 127 in four straight frames from 5-4 behind before a closing 59 saw him set up a semi-final with Trump or Higgins in the semi-finals on Wednesday after his opponent had faltered on 53.

“I would say that’s the best I’ve ever played," said Maguire, who also came from 5-1 behind to edge Australia's leading player Robertson 6-5 in the Masters in January. "Maybe it’s because we’ve had a break and there wasn’t a lot of expectation there.

“I really didn’t know what was going to happen. Some days you wake up and you can’t do anything right, and other days you play like that.

“I don’t think anybody could expect to do that again, but you’ve just got to keep hammering away. If I play half as well as that again I know I will put up a fight.”

It was simply a stunning, electric display of powerhouse scoring snooker that must give the Scotsman serious aspirations of carrying off the £150,000 first prize when the final concludes on Friday.

Robertson also contributed 79, 77 and 72 while Maguire added 86, 59 and 58 in an exhibition of great baize greatness that had to be seen to be believed.

Tour Championship draw (best of 17 frames)

(All sessions start at 1:30pm and 7pm BST)

  • Neil Robertson 5-9 Stephen Maguire (Saturday)
  • Judd Trump 9-4 John Higgins (Sunday)
  • Mark Selby v Yan Bingtao (Monday)
  • Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen (Tuesday)

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