The Big Neil Robertson Interview by FinnSnooker, part 1

Kirjoittanut: Päiväys: 27/11/2016

Haastattelu myös suomeksi / The interview also in Finnish

In cooperation with Eurosport, FinnSnooker got the opportunity to interview Neil Robertson, one of the best players in the world. Robertson was the defending champion of the UK Championship. Having won the event back in 2013, he was seeking his third UK title, something only four players have achieved. However, he was surprisingly beaten in the first round by Peter Lines, a former professional who dropped off the Main Tour after the previous season.

Robertson, currently aged 34, won the World Championship in 2010. He has been the world number one, he has made a 147 three times, and he has won 12 ranking tournaments. He was also the first and is still the only player to have made a century of centuries in a single season. One of the best players from outside the United Kingdom, Robertson has already achived more than the most.

Despite Robertson’s early loss, we wanted to publish the first part of the interview now as many questions concerned the UK Championship. The second part will be published in early 2017. Enjoy!

Hi Neil, nice to meet you! Well firstly, what have been the most memorable matches in your career? The world final is an obvious choice but what about other matches?

I’d say maybe the finals of the Triple Crown events, obviously the final of the World Championships, the final of the Masters, that was the first time I had Alexander with me after winning a tournament. Lifting the trophy is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. When I won the UK Championships for the first time, beating Mark Selby, I had my mom there as well, which was great. And then last year when I won the UK Championships, with Alexander there and making a 147 in the final is probably the most special moment. I’d say winning the Grand Prix as well, my first ranking title, it kind of really announced my name on the tour.

What kind of difficulties did you face as a rookie, coming from the other side of the world and being the only professional player from there, and has the situation changed?

Yeah, when I first came over when I was younger, I really struggled. When I moved to England I experienced real home sickness and really didn’t enjoy my time there at all and just wanted to go home. I was the only Australian around at the time and really struggled. I lost my place on the tour and came back to Australia, and had a year playing on the amateur circuit, and then I won a place back on the main tour winning the World U21, so I moved to Cambrigde with two other Australian players, Johl Younger and Steve Mifsud, who were also professional players that year. That just made it a lot easier to settle to England, when I was with two very good friends. Every year since then there has always been an Australian qualifying on the tour or playing on the Challenger tour as there was back then, so there is always somebody over here, a really good friend of mine which makes things easier. Even now, as experienced as I am living here, it just makes it that much nicer.

Have your training methods changed during your career? Are there different things that you concentrate on now than when you were starting as a pro?

I work really hard on my game to improve all aspects of it. I guess I’m always trying to improve the weakest part of my game, so I structure my practice around a lot of solid practice. I don’t like to play other players that much, apart from someone like Joe Perry occasionally. I’ve found that the most beneficial practice for me is practice by myself, working on the areas of my game that I can improve on.

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What do you think are the best things about the professional tour at the moment, and if you were in charge, what would you change?

Oh wow… I think I’d probably look at reducing the number of players on the main tour. The traveling expenses are really tough for the lower ranked players. They get a two-year card, and they have to pay a lot of travelling expenses and entry fees. If I was in charge of the game I would scrap the entry fees. I don’t think paying entry fees is right. We must be one of the few sports in the world which charges so much in entry fees, probably around 4,000 pounds a year. The 128 players on the tour is probably a bit too many, I think. If it was reduced to 96, I think all the players could earn prize money and help self-fund themselves on the tour. At the moment, there are a lot of players that lose money every year.

There has been a lot of talk about rivalries surrounding the Allen-Joyce match at the Northern Ireland Open. Do you think it is different, easier or harder, to play someone who you don’t perhaps get along with too well than playing a close friend like Joe Perry?

Fortunately, there is no one on the tour that I really dislike, I get along with everyone pretty well. But yeah, I saw a bit of that last night and it was pretty intense. Hopefully I won’t upset Mark Allen in the future!  It’s also very hard playing a good friend. I think, playing someone like Joe Perry, especially when we played in the Wuxi Classic final, was frankly very tough. I beat him 10-9, and thought that maybe he wouldn’t have another chance to win a ranking title, so I was pretty emotional after that match. It’s always difficult playing a very good friend, but it’s just one of those things in sport I guess.

Does your absence from the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast help you to prepare better your defence of your title of the UK Championship?

Yeah. I think you’ve seen couple of players not enter it, myself and Mark Selby, and Judd Trump and Ali Carter withdrew from it as well. The idea behind that is obviously better preparation for the UK Championship. It will be the first tournament in a couple of months that I’ve been able to prepare for what I would call properly. We’ve had a very hectic schedule the last couple of months. The problem is when you go from tournament to tournament it’s only a couple of days in between it’s very had to get your game sharp for the next tournament. I found that the last few tournaments I’ve kind of just been sort of hopping around China and not performing very well, so it’s good to be back and have a week’s preparation so far. I’ll have another week before I play, so I’ll be the best prepared I’ve been for a tournament all season.

You beat Michael Holt in Riga in Kaspersky Riga Masters, your only title this season. Your results this season have been on the decline. What, in your own opinion, what’s the matter with you this season? I’m sure you wonder about that yourself.

Yeah, I started the season very well. First two events I won in Riga then I got to the semis in the World Open and then I went to Australia for four weeks and then had some time off there. The problem was that I entered the Shanghai Masters. When I got back from Australia I had about a week until the tournament so the mistake was probably entering the Shanghai Masters. When I went to Shanghai I wasn’t very sharp, I didn’t have the practice that I was hoping to have and that carried on for the next couple of months where I wasn’t able to prepare myself very well for tournaments. We had a couple of qualifying events, I’d been practicing,  you only have two or three days to prepare for tournaments. I just didn’t really get my game the way I wanted it to and the thing is that if you do well in one tournament then you can go on the next week and you can carry that form on but if you’re losing in last 16 as I have recently, it makes pretty difficult to get any fluency going. Ronnie O’Sullivan talked about that last week when he said it’s very difficult to go to tournament to tournament, trying to find practise time, because you only get thirty minutes practice, and it’s very hard to get your game the way you want it in just thirty minutes of practice. That’s something to think about for the rest of the season for sure. I’m definitely only going to be entering for tournaments that I’m going to be hundred per cent prepared for.

One final question, are there any particular players you enjoy playing against, and why would that be?

I always enjoy playing John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan. They were two idols of mine growing up, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to play in the same era as them, when they are still near the top of their game. I’ve been able to beat both of them in finals, and win tournaments by beating either player on the way. It’s given me a lot of sense of pride.

Cheers Neil, good luck for the UK.

Cheers!

Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player to 4th of December.

Thanks

The interview wouldn’t have been possible without the following people – thank you!

Neil Robertson
Eurosport: Santeri Lähteensuo, Steve Stammers
FinnSnooker: Mikael Ketonen, Olli Kivioja, Marko Pietari

Photo by World Snooker

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