Practice is perfect for Neil Robertson
The finale to the competition at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena was pure sporting drama at its very best.
On one hand you had the plucky underdog – China’s Cao Yupeng – full of youthful exuberance as he neared a first ranking title and just one frame away from completing that goal at 8-4 up.
And on the other the experienced pro – Robertson – attempting to come back from that seemingly insurmountable deficit to secure a first ranking title since June 2016 and banish 12 months of average form.
It was to be Robertson who prevailed, winning five frames in a row to leave Cao distraught and, despite the success, the Australian is not resting on his laurels.
“The funny thing is now that I’ve won this and the Hong Kong Masters earlier in the season, all of a sudden I’ve won two events and it’s all good again,” said the 35-year-old from Melbourne. “I can rest up good now over Christmas and continue to practise.
“I’ve practised so hard it’s incredible, at some stage over the last few months I was practising 200 long balls a day, as well as the other things you have to do.
“I think my main threat is my long potting, when my hand is on the table I will go for it and it’s good to get my long game back to that.
“I’ve improved as a player overall, 11 centuries this week, my performance against John Higgins and against Guodong [Xiao], I think I’m playing better than I ever have. But you need to because the whole tour’s playing so much better.”
Robertson clearly enjoys playing in Scotland, the win represents his fourth ranking title here, but how did he pull off such a miraculous comeback?
The Chinaman played with supreme confidence to get to 8-4 up, breaks of 82, 72 and 70 helping to take the first three frames.
Cao led 5-3 at the interval but a break of 132 in the tenth showed Robertson was still in it, and sensing his opponent’s nerves at 8-4 the Australian went all out. “I was super-aggressive in the next couple of frames you know, just put him under pressure, then at 8-6 it was more scrappy and I guess in a way the nerves build,” he added.
“I’ve never experienced that before in my life, in a match of that magnitude, where I’m basically out and then somehow I get another chance.
“At eight each I just thought ‘if I get a chance here I’m going all out’ and I potted some unbelievable balls, an unbelievable red down the back cushion, I’ve hit the jaws and then not really on anything I’ve knocked in a courageous yellow.”
In the final few frames all those in the arena could see Cao’s visible distress and upon the conclusion it would have taken a hard soul to not feel for the 27-year-old.
But this tournament represents the best he’s ever played, and the man himself believes he’ll learn from it.
“I’m just a little bit sad because I put too much pressure on myself when I was close to winning the match,” said Cao.
“When I started I had a good feeling, going to 8-4 up I had a great feeling and thought I could control the match.
“The heart needs to be stronger, that’s what I need to learn from Neil and the other top-16 players, they’ve got a very strong heart and they don’t lose control and everything in a moment in the match.”