Red-hot Neil Robertson clinches maiden Players Championship crown
Neil Robertson claimed his first Players Championship title after beating Barry Hawkins 10-5 in the final in Wolverhampton.
The Thunder hit four centuries – including three in succession – on the way to landing the 22nd ranking event crown of his career at Aldersley Leisure Village on Sunday.
A runner-up at this tournament on three occasions, Robertson finally got his hands on the trophy and pocketed the top prize of £125,000.
It also marked his third silverware of the season, having already captured the English Open and Masters crowns.
“I got off to an unbelievable start in the match with three centuries in a row to go 5-1,” Robertson told ITV.
“Many players in the world would have collapsed from there, but it inspired [Barry] to play his best snooker in those last two frames for 5-3. His safety was incredible.
“Yes [I am in very good form], but it doesn’t last forever. People can just start putting your name on the trophy, and it doesn’t quite work like that.
“This will inspire more players to get their hands on the trophies as well, and make the target on my back even bigger, but I’m well used to that and I enjoy that challenge.
“I’ve had an unbelievable season. I just can’t wait to keep playing and, hopefully, add something else to the silverware.”
It was a repeat of last month’s Masters final, when Robertson prevailed 10-4 to secure his second triumph in snooker’s most prestigious invitational event.
Just like in their meeting at Alexandra Palace, Hawkins drew first blood with a fluent break of 91.
Appearing in his first ranking event final since the 2018 China Open, the Hawk looked good for a 2-1 lead at 55-0 up in frame three.
However, Robertson stole it with runs of 41 and 34, before consecutive centuries of 107, 105 and 130 established a commanding 5-1 advantage.
Nevertheless, Hawkins responded well with a stunning 137 total clearance – becoming the 15th player to reach 400 centuries in his career – reducing the arrears to 5-3 at the end of the afternoon.
Once again, the Australian pulled four frames clear with runs of 58, 64 and 54, only for his opponent to cut the gap to two with a top contribution of 61 along the way.
But the world number four found another gear. A timely 116 clearance – as well as runs of 40 and 51 in the following frame – moved him to the brink of victory, which he secured with a break of 69.
“I don’t feel like I did that much wrong, to be fair,” Hawkins added.
“Neil was in devastating form today, and I felt like I was holding onto his coat tails for most of the day.
“When someone’s playing like that – especially Neil – it’s hard to keep hold of him. He thoroughly deserved to win.
“It just wasn’t meant to be today, but all credit to Neil – he’s a brilliant player.”