The streets of Earls Court were awash with Foster’s last night as celebrations continued into the early hours following the victory of Australian boy Neil Robertson in the UK snooker Grand Prix.
Well, okay, it was four of us. But, god, we were proud. Robertson, shock-headed, a pro since the age of 14 and looking a little like a stretched-out version of Dennis the Menace, is the first Australian to win a major international snooker title.
Dubbed “the Melbourne Machine”, the 24-year-old’s speciality is the long pot, and when he’s on form it’s a joy to watch. One shot, in which he potted a red the diagonal length of the table and then brought the cue ball back across the width through a space exactly the width of the ball – brought a collective intake of breath from the audience that was audible on TV.
On the other hand, when he loses focus he tries shots so dumb that the word “boofhead” does not seem out of place.
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But if the final was deeply gratifying, it was his quarter-final defeat of “Rocket” Ronnie O’Sullivan that was extraordinary to watch. O’Sullivan is by common consent the greatest natural talent in the history of the green baize, once making a 147 maximum break (all the balls on the table) in five-and-a-half minutes. Watching him on form is to know what it would have been to see Bradman or Paganini.
He’s a force like the weather, but he’s also as jittery as a thoroughbred, and in the quarters he simply fell apart before Robertson’s relentless forward march.
Ronnie, dark-haired, scowling, depressive son of an East End gangster, versus the blond Aussie. When O’Sullivan talks of failed shots, he sounds like a man who accidentally shot his own mother; when Robertson talks he sounds like a 12-year-old who just got an ice-cream.
He’ll either be a world number one, or be the first champion to tear the cloth and take his own eye out. And it’ll be fun to watch!