Neil Robertson exacted revenge for his recent loss to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the World Grand Prix with a 6-4 victory in the quarter-finals of the Masters.
The Australian could not withstand a late assault from O’Sullivan in Coventry before Christmas, but on this occasion he secured an early lead and fended off a fightback to prevail.
Two centuries were the highlights for Robertson, but of greater significance was how he kept fending off a player who has often found a way of putting him under the cosh at the business end of matches.
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O’Sullivan made a cagey start, as a wild missed pot and poor safety handed Robertson a chance and he set his stall out with a break of 119 to take the opener.
Despite ultimately running out an impressive winner against Jack Lisowski, OSullivan made a nervous start in the first round. It was a similar theme against Robertson, as he saw a red into left middle hit the far knuckle and shortly afterwards missed a long red by a distance. The second miss proved costly, as Robertson crafted a break of 56 to move two frames ahead.
O’Sullivan had been kept cold for two frames, and a huge roar greeted the Rocket’s first successful pot - after 35 minutes of playing time. It earned him a solitary point, as he did not drop on a colour. But a good safety earned him a chance a short while later and he did enough to get on the board.
Robertson looked sure to head into the interval with a two-frame cushion, but he missed a red into the left middle with the balls well split. O’Sullivan, buoyed by taking the previous frame, knocked in a 66 to draw level.
The fifth felt like one that got away from O’Sullivan as he mounted a counter to Robertson’s break of 50, but missed the penultimate red - seemingly focused on position for the final red - and the 2012 champion edged back in front.
Robertson has been guilty of over-thinking things, and that appeared the case in the sixth. He was in the balls and seemingly well set, but took an age over a black and when he eventually executed the pot, he finished awkwardly on the following red. It wriggled in the jaws of the green pocket, and the Rocket punished with a break of 102 - his 80th Masters century.
The seventh was an adventure for Robertson, as he visited areas of the table he did not want to go anywhere near. But he kept pulling out top-class pots, and the 808th century of his career put him back in front once again.
The pattern of the match was similar to the World Grand Prix, as Robertson made the running but could not shake off O’Sullivan.
Robertson got in first in the eighth, but broke down and O’Sullivan countered brilliantly and a break of 68 was enough to bring him back on level terms, despite frustratingly dropping out of position at one stage.
The Australian took the ninth to move within one frame of the semi-finals and unlike in the World Grand Prix, Robertson was able to get over the line.
It was not done without drama, as he missed a routine brown off its spot when on 54. O'Sullivan's counter was short-lived, and Robertson knocked in a pressure red to left middle and it helped him get over the line.
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