There is a quote attributed – as most quotes tend to be – to Winston Churchill, who defines success as “going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm”.
Neil Robertson has had his share of low moments in a long career, but his capture of the Masters title on Sunday night was a sweet reward for a player who mixes sunny optimism with terrific all-around play.
For Robertson, the glass is usually half full, if not overflowing. He’s always had a knack for putting aside the setbacks and looking for the positives, which may explain why he’s been able to extend his remarkable streak of winning any title every calendar year since his first win. The race started in 2006 and now stands at 17+.
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The most valuable asset everyone has is their time. Robertson was groomed from an early age to sacrifice precious time with his family in Australia to pursue his dream of becoming one of snooker’s top professionals. In doing so, he became a sports great.
Some of those early years must have been lonely and uncertain. It takes strength of character to reach the top of any sport, but Robertson had considerable challenges, including financial ones, that make his story special.
He grew up in a Melbourne pool club run by his father. In those days, earning pocket change to buy a can of pop was as ambitious as it gets.
Improvements came quickly, and Robertson turned pro at age 16. He came to the UK possessing raw talent but out of his depth. He was relegated on his birthday and returned to Australia with his snooker adventure seemingly over. One morning, he went to the local Pôle Emploi. The queue was long, which gave him time to think. He knew he was good at snooker, he knew the odds were stacked against him but he wanted to try.
He won the World Under-21 title, joined the circuit and settled in Cambridge, which became a base from which to work on improving all aspects of his game. See him celebrate afterwards the final on Sunday with the family he has built – his wife, Mille, and their children, Alexander and Penelope – would have melted the coldest of hearts.
The finale wasn’t the classic we might have hoped for, but Robertson’s win still felt like the fitting end to a truly special week on the green felt.
The Masters was a triumph for the World Snooker Tour, which brilliantly organized a first-class event that brought the game to the fore as a thoroughly modern sport, closer to the tennis finals of the ATP Tour than to the tournament. average snooker.
Players swooned in praise of the set-up and a large, enthusiastic audience made it seem like the hottest ticket in town.
The lesson from Ally Pally is that snooker doesn’t need gimmicks to thrive. He needs more well-promoted tournaments in suitable venues. He needs events to feel like occasions.
Judd Trump, the leading modernizer among players, has long believed the sport can make the most of itself, especially by connecting with young fans. He finds the formal dress code dated, has various ideas for how snooker can improve its image, and is annoyed by a perceived lack of interest from the powers that be. “Nobody seems to want to listen or pay attention to what the players have to say,” Trump told Metro Online last week.
The reality for WST is that players’ opinions differ wildly, usually depending on their ranking and therefore what suits them best personally. For example, many people at the bottom of the leaderboard are more concerned with prize distribution than what they wear.
Responsible for promoting the professional circuit, the WST must also take into account the wishes of the broadcasters and sponsors who, after all, finance the circuit. Players do not always appreciate the demands of these entities, although they often benefit from them.
Even so, Trump’s zeal for innovation is beyond reproach, whether or not you agree with his specific ideas. After taking part in the US Open 9-ball snooker event last summer, he traveled to Seattle for a snooker exhibition, introducing the game to an untapped market. The exhibition shots he regularly plays have penetrated the timeline scroll of more casual sports enthusiasts.
Last year he drew considerable anger from mainstream snooker fans by suggesting the world championship had become too big for the crucible. It’s sacrilegious talk to many, but it reflects Trump’s view that snooker should be more confident in its growth ambitions.
Judd Trump in his Masters semi-final against Barry Hawkins
Image credit: Eurosport
There are few more ambitious than Barry Hearn, the irrepressible businessman who saved the professional game from a slow death when he took over the reins of WST in 2010. He retired as Chairman but remains Chairman of Matchroom and a hands-on presence in all of its sports. He was in the arena after Sunday’s final beaming from ear to ear, justifiably proud of his team for a job well done.
Hearn is 73 but young in outlook and has embraced the modern online world. There was a time when ‘social media’ at snooker tournaments meant getting hammered in the hotel bar with reporters. In recent times, WST has built up a significant following on its social platforms. His new TikTok account became an instant hit, though many of the old guard believe it’s a reference to a stopwatch.
These are leads that did not exist in the past but are vital for the future. They bring new sources of income into the game and appeal to a younger demographic.
All of that is important, but what ultimately sells the game is the game itself. Put the best players in the world in an imposing place in a big city and the snooker shines. What we saw at Alexandra Palace was a sport making the most of its potential.
Not all events have the story benefits enjoyed by the Masters, but the aspiration should be to give the rest of the circuit a similar elevation.
Trump lost in the semi-finals but was still beaming with praise for the week, tweeting: “Other than the 2011 world champions I think this was the best week of snooker I’ve ever had… Snooker is rising.
As for Robertson, he can be justly proud of his latest triumph. His journey to the top comes down to how he won his semi-final against Mark Williams after one of the most extraordinary decisive frames ever seen at the Masters.
Afterwards, emotionally drained but still resilient, the Aussie spoke words that underpinned his entire career: “Never give up.”
Churchill himself could not have said it better.
The moment Neil Robertson won the Masters
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