Neil Robertson fires up appreciative Hong Kong crowd as Ronnie O’Sullivan plans a bonfire of his own after Masters final

Australian praises crowd at Queen Elizabeth Stadium as beaten finalist Ronnie O’Sullivan threatens to set his cue on fire when he gets home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 July, 2017, 11:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 July, 2017, 12:02am

It could have been very different for 2017 Hong Kong Masters champion Neil Robertson. After apologetically defeating the territory’s favourite son, Marco Fu Ka-chun, in the semi-finals he could have found himself up against not only arguably the best player of all time and a perennial crowd favourite in Ronnie O’Sullivan, but perhaps a hostile audience after dismissing the home-town hero in front of a sell-out crowd at Queen Elizabeth Stadium earlier in the week.

Instead, the champion said his 6-3 win in Hong Kong ranked as the best of his career and lauded the home crowd for their appreciation of good snooker as well as their good behaviour.

“It had the best eight players in the world and my draw was incredible – I had Mark Selby in the quarters, Marco Fu in the semis and Ronnie in the final,” said the Australian.

“It doesn’t get any harder than that and that’s what makes it even more special. To do it in front of 3,000 people in that arena – it’s the best playing experience I’ve ever had in my career.

“For me it beats [world championship venue] The Crucible, it beats the Masters, it beats the UK [Championship] ... how enthusiastic the crowd was – every shot ... I’ve never experienced anything like it, and on top of that the crowd behaved themselves really well, too.”

Robertson was in fine form throughout the final and pointed to a new-found aggression in his game that helped him beat five-time world champion O’Sullivan.

Best atmosphere in the world: Robertson praises Hong Kong crowd as he lifts Masters title

“I didn’t let Ronnie dictate the pace,” said the 35-year-old. “I was aggressive and kept on attacking him. In the past, sometimes when he’s beaten me he’s kept me back and then I start to get negative. But no matter what happened in the match I kept aggressive and kept playing my shots.”

Robertson had a barren season last term with just one tournament win at the beginning of the year in Riga, Latvia and saw his world ranking drop to seventh, his lowest mark since 2013. He said defeat by Fu in last season’s world championship triggered a change in his style.

“My match with Marco Fu in the world championship, I just don’t wanna play that way again,” said Robertson. “It’s like a football team who want to play aggressive, but they’re just stuck at the back passing it and can’t get anything going.

O’Sullivan survives nail-biter to book Hong Kong Masters semi-final berth

“Last season was really bad by my standards and I almost needed to have such a bad season to know what to do going forward and for the first big tournament of the season, my preparation has been excellent and I’ve been working really hard.”

Runner-up O’Sullivan was sanguine after the loss and said he felt he had played the best he could in trying circumstances.

“If you would have told me at the start of the week that I’d be in the final, I’d have took it,” said the 41-year-old. “I don’t make excuses but my cue – I will be setting fire to it and burning it as soon as I get home. It’s finished.

“There were certain shots that I just couldn’t play. It’s lost its feel. It’s had some work done to it and it’s not the same. Considering that, I done very well. So I just have to take the positives out of it.”