Neil Robertson says he has now identified why he has struggled at the World Championship in recent years, thanks to studying Ronnie O’Sullivan’s performances and talking to the Rocket about playing at the Crucible.
The Australian has lifted the World Championship trophy, reaching the sport’s pinnacle in 2010, but despite being one of the finest players on the planet since then, he has been surprisingly underwhelming in Sheffield.
Since that Crucible triumph 12 years ago, Robertson has been to just one semi-final in South Yorkshire, considering he has taken his tally of ranking titles to 23, that is a bizarrely poor return at the World Championship.
The Thunder from Down Under has suggested reasons in the past, including not enjoying how tight the Crucible is, although he now says that was more of an excuse and he has identified the problem, which became clear in his shock defeat to Jack Lisowski in the last 16 this year.
‘I do actually know what it is,’ Robertson told Stephen Hendry on his Cue Tips YouTube channel. ‘But it’s something that I have to execute properly. It’s nothing to do with mental or anything like that.
‘Look at my match with Jack Lisowski last season, it was a great match, Jack played out of his skin, he was so disciplined as well which was really surprising. Then against [John] Higgins he made more mistakes in the first session than he did in our whole match.
‘I was like, that was the Jack I was expecting, the mad shots. But he had [Peter] Ebdon in his corner, he was so disciplined, turning down shots.
‘There was a couple of sessions in that match, I was too aggressive in certain moments where I should have kept it tighter, not negative but make it as hard as possible for him.
‘At the Crucible everyone tries till the end, no matter what, it’s a lot harder to dominate.
‘I really watched Ronnie a lot in these World Championships, the amount of easy chances he was creating for himself because his safety was so good, so disciplined, not giving anything away.
‘That’s a big area I’m focusing on this season, I like to play the aggressive shot, but I just need to be smarter with the way I go about it, don’t give frames away.
‘Going into that last session with Jack I was 9-7 down, I was thinking I’d make it a lot harder for him now. Not go for the 7/10 long ones, miss and leave him in. Play a shot to nothing, just make it harder and it turned the match around and I got to 12-11 up. It’s the safety element.’
Not only was Robertson looking closely at the tactical game of the Rocket as he won his seventh world title this year, but he has spoken to the world champ about how to succeed in Sheffield.
‘I’ve talked to some players, I’ve talked to Ronnie about it and I’ve been given a couple of tools now which I think will be helpful,’ said Neil.
‘I can’t hide away from it, people always go back to me not being to the one-table.’
For more stories like this, check our sport page.