Masters 2022 - Neil Robertson crushes Barry Hawkins to win Paul Hunter Trophy for second time
Neil Robertson proved too strong for Barry Hawkins in their battle for the Paul Hunter Trophy at the Alexandra Palace. The players were given a tremendous ovation upon their arrival for the Masters final. It was tense stuff early on but Robertson proved in a different league in the evening. Stream the Masters and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+
Neil Robertson became Masters champion for a second time when comfortably taking care of Barry Hawkins 10-4 at Alexandra Palace.
The Australian took control of the match in the first session, and he kept Hawkins at arm’s length to secure a fifth Triple Crown, to go with his win in 2012, three UK Championships and one World Championship.
Robertson made a slow start to the season, after taking time out to get married in the summer, but the Paul Hunter Trophy will join the English Open in the display cabinet and he will head into the rest of the season on a high - with the World Championship the big goal.
Hawkins deserves great credit for his run to the final and may reflect on the chances he passed up, but he looked a far more positive player this week and will have high hopes of soon snapping a winless run dating back to 2019.
Ronnie O’Sullivan said between sessions that Hawkins’ best chance was to go on the attack. It’s debatable whether he was watching the Rocket, but the Hawk went for his shots early in the evening.
He was unfortunate to see a tough red into the bottom right wiggle in the jaws - and Robertson seized on his opening to knock in a break of 50 to open up a three-frame cushion.
Hawkins had the crowd on his side being the home favourite, but as much as that they wanted to see a match. A huge roar greeted the Hawk’s opening red in the 10th, and a break of 69 got him into the evening session.
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Robertson left Hawkins a tempter in the opening frame of the evening which he took on but failed to get. There was a repeat in the 11th frame, and it paid dividends for the Australian. Hawkins’ miss presented his opponent with a tempting table, and he cashed in with a break of 68.
The 12th frame had a pivotal feel to it, a four-frame or two-frame gap. It proved a nervy affair, with both missing simple pots. But it was Robertson who got ahead and crunched a brilliant long red into the bottom left to take a stranglehold on the contest heading into the final interval.
The scoreboard pressure on Hawkins was huge, and after getting in with a superb red in the 13th frame he faltered - and left the table open for Robertson.
The balls still needed to be potted, but with the cushion of a four-frame advantage Robertson did not falter - and his second century of the day moved him to within one step of victory.
Robertson has won a tournament every year since 2006, and his stunning play in the final frame - as he was freed from pressure and potted for pleasure - ticked that off for another 12 months in the opening event of the year.
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Robertson edged ahead of Hawkins after the first session.
Robertson holds a 10-4 head-to-head advantage over Hawkins in tournament play - including the last four meetings - and the Hawk will need to produce something special in the evening at the Alexandra Palace to deny the Australian a second Masters title.
It was a scrappy start with both players missing presentable chances, but Hawkins knocked in the final red and cleared to take the opener.
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While Hawkins appeared pumped up by the occasion, Robertson looked a little subdued. His play in the opening frame seemed a hangover from the semi-finals, but he crunched in a couple of brilliant reds in the second to draw level and seemingly settle into the match.
The second frame suggested Robertson was ready to enter battle, and he proved that in style in the third as he knocked in the 37th century of his Masters career to move in front.
The fourth frame was a long way from a decider, but it had the feel of one as both players passed up chances. A Robertson miss proved pivotal, as Hawkins knocked in a good red to draw level at the interval.
Robertson pinched a dramatic final frame against Mark Williams to book his place in the final, and he did the same to Hawkins in the fifth.
Hawkins took two frames before the interval without making a break over 50, but he looked good in the frame upon the resumption when knocking in a break of 60.
He did not close out the frame, and passed up further chances on the final red. The fifth turned Robertson’s way when Hawkins fouled the green with his shirt, and to compound the error he conceded a free ball. Robertson stepped in to pot the final red and the colours to move in front.
Both players missed chances in the sixth, with Hawkins' pink to left middle proving the costliest. He lifted the butt of his cue just before impact to throw the object ball off line, and a tap of his temple suggested he knew it.
Hawkins showed his battling qualities and steely resolve to see off Judd Trump. Those were on show in the seventh, as he shrugged off another and stood firm as Robertson chased a snooker to take the frame and cut the gap.
Robertson’s long game is one of his strengths, but he was down at 30% in the early stages of the final. It improved as the session wore on, and when knocking in a red in the eighth it lifted him to 63%. It set up a break of 73, and a two-frame lead heading into the evening session.
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