Crucible Diary 2010: Final Night Report

I said it in the early hours but I will say it again, congratulations to Neil Robertson on his Crucible triumph. Click below to read about my day in Sheffield and also my thoughts on the final as a whole…

Arriving in Sheffield at around 1pm, the day began with a trip to Pizza Hut as has become something of a final day tradition, before heading to the Crucible and discussing how the final two sessions of the Championship would unfold with some of the regulars. At this stage my feeling was still that it would be Graeme who could come through as although he trailed by two frames, in a four session match that was not the biggest obstacle in the world and throughout the tournament he had played to such a high standard.

As 3pm approached (yes, more on the ridiculous scheduling will follow in a subsequent post), I headed on up into the arena and took my seat as Steve Davis was introduced to receive an award, presumably for his quarter-final run this year. I recorded the presentation on Youtube and will upload that in due course.

Steve collects his award

Will the preliminaries done with however it was over to the players and the question was how many frames would be able to be played as with play not actually starting until around 3:15pm and the players needing to have a break prior to the final session at 8pm, they were never going to be able to complete the scheduled eight frames. As it turned out the number would be six as Neil was able to maintain his two-frame cushion without really playing at his best. Graeme hung in there well and finished off the session with the first (and only as it would turn out), century break of the match, though he was not looking able to reproduce the form that he had shown to make it to the final, his long game looking particularly vulnerable.

Between sessions I headed out and with a few of the regulars waited around to see whether or not any celebrities would be in attendance as they sometimes are on final night. As is often the case both Cliff Thorburn and Ray Reardon were in attendance, while I also had a short chat with Ken Doherty and told him about this website. MC Rob Walker was also around, all suited and booted for the final ‘boys on the baize’ of the tournament while tournament sponsor Fred Done and WPBSA Chairman Barry Hearn also headed into the venue.

Chatting to the others around the venue, the feeling was that the match would inevitably run beyond midnight and should it go close, possibly beyond 1am. Much would depend on whether either player could raise their game and take a grip of the final or whether it would continue to be something of a struggle with breaks of 30 and 40 being the order of the day.

Heading into the arena, the atmosphere was strangely not quite as electric as it was a year ago when John Higgins came out to complete a routine victory over Shaun Murphy, though I was given something of a surprise when Ray Reardon came in and sat a couple of seats to my left! Also in the arena was former cricket umpire Dickie Bird, together with MP Richard Caborn and former champion Peter Ebdon.

Enter the players

As the players were introduced to the crowd, coming down the corner of the arena as has become something of a tradition for the final session, both looked pumped up and it was important for Graeme to get off to a good start and not let Neil get away from him. Although he could take a tense first frame however, Neil took the second and celebrated in style before taking another to head into the final interval of the match with his two frame lead intact.

At this stage it definitely appeared to me as though Neil was struggling with the occasion to a greater degree but Graeme too was off his game and importantly I feel, looking absolutely exhausted. One of the advantages that you get when watching snooker live is that you can see more of the player who is not at the table and watching him in his chair it was clear that he was struggling badly, doing everything he could to focus but not quite succeeding.

As the following two frames were again shared, Graeme began to look even more tired and while both players continued to struggle for fluency, it was Neil who was getting in first with breaks of 30 or 40 and giving himself a lead to hold on to. The pivotal frame was for me undeniably number 29 which was eventually taken after a titanic struggle by Robertson to extend his lead to three frames and it was fairly clear by this point that Graeme had nothing left in the tank with which to respond.

Neil duly added the next two frames for victory and as the flashbulbs went off as he completed the match-winning break, I managed to take a nice shot of him at the table with his mother waiting behind him with an Australian flag in her arms.

Amusingly the trophy presentation did not progress quite as had been intended as Betfred’s Fred Done came straight into the arena and gave him the trophy before Rob Walker and the other members of the presentation party had made it out there, but it did not take away from what was a special moment for Neil and his supporters out there in the arena. The presentation lasted for around 15 minutes and Neil posed with the trophy and the flag and Graeme gave a very generous interview in which he said that Neil fully deserved the win. I took a lot of photos of this and will endeavour to post them here when I can.

No sooner had Neil left the arena however had the table fitters began to take the table apart, nothing out of the ordinary but it always surprises me how little time they waste to do it! Barry Hearn was also hanging around and I took the opportunity to have a photo both of him and with him (cheers Samantha!), also saying to him something along the lines of good luck with the upcoming vote and that snooker really needed him. Hearn replied that it is not a matter of luck and that it was a matter of having the foresight to succeed, that we would be ok. Here’s hoping on that one.

Soon though the remaining spectators were asked to leave the arena and following some time discussing the tournament with the gang, I said my farewells for another year and headed for home.

As far as the result is concerned I was delighted for Neil as it has been a few years now since we have had a new winner of the trophy and he is a top guy who fully deserves the success that has come his way. My first ever year at the Crucible was 2005 when I was there to watch him on his debut against Stephen Hendry and having watched him every year since it is nice to have seen him progress from raw prospect, to contender and now to world champion. I can’t say that he is a player that I have spoken to a great deal over the years but I do remember chatting to him at Stage Door back in 2006 after he had come through what was emotionally a very difficult match against a by then very ill Paul Hunter and found him to be as likeable as any of the players.

On the table his performance was not as strong in the final as some of his previous performances but he got the job done and who knows, perhaps it was just meant to be having recovered from 11-5 down against Martin Gould at the last 16 stage. Name on the trophy and all that.

A word though on Graeme Dott who I have to admit really won me over this week as he combined his traditionally gritty, determined game with some terrific long potting and a fluency that I have not seen from him before. Right from his opening session against Peter Ebdon it was evident that he could be a real dark horse to go far in this tournament and though he fell short in the end, there is no doubt that he deserves to be back among the top 16 as he now is at the expense of Jamie Cope.

Right until around 15-13 last night I still felt that had he been able to get level with Neil then I would have made him a reasonably strong favourite to go on and take the victory, but he could not quite do it and as fatigue (both physical and mental I suspect), began to take its toll, unfortunately for him he had nothing left to give.

Still though, Graeme is definitely back and hopefully now his personal problems are well and truly behind him to allow him to maintain this level into 2010/11.