Snooker: Aussie rules the green baize

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The Independent Online

Neil Robertson duly converted his commanding 15-9 overnight lead against Allister Carter into a 17-12 victory, a place in the final of the Betfred.com World Championship and a chance to secure a title which eluded his fellow Australian, Eddie Charlton, by a single frame against Ray Reardon 35 years ago.

"His long potting is sensational and he can grind a bit," said the greatest grinder of them all, Cliff Thorburn, the Canadian who, since his triumph in 1980, has remained the only visitor from the Commonwealth to lift the trophy here.

Add in flamboyant shot making when circumstances allow it and cue ball control that has assisted him to 42 centuries this season, seven of them here, and Australia has the sort of national hero it needs to rejuvenate interest that has flagged there since Charlton's retirement.

Carter did win three of yesterday's first four frames and will be fourth in the end of season rankings while Robertson, once he had secured the clinching frame, was sure of third with a chance to go above Ronnie O'Sullivan to second if he wins the title. John Higgins was assured of top place before the defending champion hit a ball in Sheffield this year.

Robertson, 28, is made of stern stuff. On and off the table, he has needed to be. His parents divorced and he played snooker only on Saturday mornings with his father until he was 14. "I got poor grades in school. I couldn't concentrate," he said. He suffered from depression and from acne so severe that he was often too self-conscious to venture out.

He proved to be not quite ready for his first attempt at the main Tour 10 years ago and was immediately relegated but won the 2003 world Under-21 title to earn a second chance. Heavily in debt from funding overseas amateur trips, he arrived in Cambridge with £500 in his pocket and struggled, week by week, until he won the first of his four ranking titles in 2006.

A week ago he made a monumental recovery from 11-5 down to beat an inspired qualifier, Martin Gould, 13-12, an experience that made him stronger.

Graeme Dott has complained about being "pigeonholed wrongly as a tactical grinder", when he has been in the most fluent form of his career, making seven centuries in adding heavy scoring to his more familiar virtues of steadiness and tenacity.

Dott's 10-6 overnight lead against Mark Selby was cut to 10-8 when his opponent cleared with 66 for a black ball win; his 11-8 advantage was reduced to 11-10 as Selby, who beat O'Sullivan from three down with four to play to win the Masters and again 13-11 in the quarter-finals here from 9-5 behind, displayed his characteristic grit in adversity.

Fleetingly, 11-11 was on the cards but from 12-10 the 32-year-old Scot from Larkhall clinched another frame with 56 and the last of the morning on the pink to secure a 14-10 advantage. They restarted last night.

This most low profile of former champions endured such a miserable couple of years, assailed by bereavement, a broken arm, depression and his wife's health proplems that he was in freefall down the rankings. It has been good to see him regain his place in the elite top 16.

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