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Page last updated at 06:51 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 07:51 UK

Neil Robertson shows mettle to win World Championship

World champion Neil Robertson

By Mark Ashenden
BBC Sport at the Crucible

Australians do not like their sport stars to lose and when they tuned in on Monday to see their first snooker player in a World Championship final for 35 years, nothing but a victory would do.

They were not let down.

At 0054 BST Tuesday morning, the blond locks were draped in his country's flag as Neil Robertson eventually came through a monumental battle to see off gritty Scot Graeme Dott in a 18-13 victory.

606: DEBATE
Kellie Price

Eddie Charlton was the last cueman from down under to make a World Championship final in 1975. Now the 'Thunder' has gone one better to be the first player outside the UK and Ireland since Cliff Thorburn in 1980 to triumph at the Crucible.

Two days before the final, Thorburn, a Canadian who knows a thing or two about grinding out wins, said: "It could definitely be his time."

It unquestionably was his time as the 28-year-old left-hander prevailed after some early jitters inside Sheffield's intense arena and in front of all the fans watching on TV and their laptops in his homeland, as well as his mum who had made the 12,000 mile trip.

Goodness only knows if girlfriend Mille was watching the drama unfold in Norway as she was due to give birth to their first child on the first day of the final.

NEIL ROBERTSON FACTS
Born: 11 Feb 1982, Melbourne, Australia.
1996: Becomes youngest player at 14 to make a century in an Australian ranking event
1998: Leaves school at 15 and turns professional
2000: Wins Australian Under-21 Championship
2003: Wins World U-21 championship to earn wild card for main tour
2004: Wins Masters qualifying tournament but loses to Jimmy White in first round
2005: Qualifies for World Championship for first time. Loses to Stephen Hendry in first round.
2005: Achieves a top-32 ranking for the first time, moving
to 28th
2006: Reaches quarter-finals at World Championship but loses 13-12 to Graeme Dott
2006: Climbs into top 16 for first time, at world number 13. Secures first ranking title, winning the Grand Prix
2009: Reaches World Championship semi-finals by ousting Steve Davis, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire, but loses to Shaun Murphy
2010: Makes 147 maximum break, his first in competition as
a professional against Peter Ebdon at China Open

"That was a titanic struggle," a fatigued Robertson declared. "But the Australians love world champions. It would have been awful to lose in the final. England can have the Ashes and I'll take the snooker World Championship!"

His full repertoire of long potting and solid safety rarely surfaced in the final but for most of the previous two weeks, thrilled the Crucible audience, including those in the BBC commentary box. "His break-building is outstanding and he's at the peak of his powers," said 1991 champion John Parrott.

Although not hitting a century in the final, seven hundreds (among a total of 59) remains a fine haul by the computer games addict during a tournament that almost came to a crashing halt for him in the first week.

Fergal O'Brien was easy pickings in the first round but in round two, he trailed former croupier Martin Gould 6-0 and 11-5 overnight. "At times I thought he nicked Ronnie O'Sullivan's soul. Everything was going in," he said.

Robertson even checked out of his hotel thinking it was all over. Stealing a last-frame thriller to win 13-12 had Ken Doherty, champion in 1997, calling it one of the finest comebacks he had ever seen. The near scare helped to rejuvenate his campaign thereafter.

A creaking 52-year-old Steve Davis failed to put up much of a fight in the quarters after conquering John Higgins, before a fairly comfortable 17-12 win over Ali Carter, which included four centuries, got him in the final.

The waterworks in the TV studio immediately after that semi-final showed just what it meant to the former nine-ball pool champion and 2003 world U-21 winner.

At the age of 15, he left school and turned pro, swapping the blue skies and barbeques for the clouds and murky snooker halls of England. His mum and dad worked all hours to fund their son's dreams, but it all came to nothing.

Giving up is not in his armoury - something witnessed many times at the Crucible this year - and having dealt with depression and acne that forced him to stay indoors, he opted to leave his family and friends for a fourth time and move to Cambridge in 2004 on a quest for baize glory. It was 'now or never'.

"I left school and I wasn't dedicated. Mum and dad had sacrificed a lot. I was close to quitting. But I came back for a last go with just £500 in my pocket. I even had to borrow a waistcoat!" he reflected.

Neil Robertson
Robertson on his first World Championship appearance in 2005

Buying his own clothes was soon back on the agenda with a first ranking trophy in 2006 in the Grand Prix, followed by the Welsh Open, Bahrain Championship and another Grand Prix crown earlier this season. A rapidly rising star was in the making.

After trailing 5-3 to Dott in the final, who himself has overcome depression to return to the top 16, Robertson hit back to grab a 8-5 lead and continued to keep the battling Scot at bay, despite the occasional wobble, before getting his hands on the trophy soon after 0100 BST on Tuesdsay.

How fitting then his crowning glory should be enjoyed alongside his mum Alison, who had never seen her son play a professional match and who had flown in just a few hours before the match begun.

At a time when snooker is desperate for new heroes, it may just have Australia to thank for providing a man to help reinvigorate a sport currently suffering what chief Barry Hearn describes as its " worst hour" .

"I'm not sure about the haircut," Hearn joked, "but he is the face of modern snooker. Kids all round the world will want to be Neil Robertson."



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see also
Robertson beats Dott to win title
04 May 10 |  Snooker
World Snooker final as it happened
02 May 10 |  Snooker
Robertson reaches Crucible final
01 May 10 |  Snooker
Robertson ends Davis's fairytale
28 Apr 10 |  Snooker
Grand Prix draw
17 Oct 08 |  Snooker
Grand Prix final scores
19 Oct 08 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker


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