Neil Robertson, the “Melbourne Machine” has done it, winning the Snooker World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last night, the first Australian since the great Horace Lindrum in 1952 to do so, and the first non-Brit to take the title in 30 years.

Robertson put away diminutive Scot Graham Dott 18 frames to 13 in the final, a gruelling and slow ordeal — match-time came in at 12 hours — which saw both players keep each other in check with slow defensive play.

Robertson only managed to open up his five frame lead at the end, the middle part of the match seeing them running neck and neck at 9-7.

But Robertson also put in some great elegant play, as Dott generously acknowledged after the game. The kid is greater at pots that every other player, with the exception of the great Ronnie O’Sullivan (who was out of the tournament early this year, and muttered again about retiring). And when he’s flowing, he plays a simple loose limbed and elegant game.

Case in point was the pot that put him on track to win the final frame — a pink ball, lying a quarter of the way out along the back cushion, the cue ball a third the way down the table. The pink had to be slid into the pocket, the white returned to the middle of the table. It was done with such grace, such unimprovable elegance that even the commentators singled it out as a thing of beauty.

Robertson had already made a mark in this tournament after dispatching Steve Davis with a totally outclassing performance, right after Davis at the age of 52 had improbably defeated John Higgins, the world number one.

Attentive Crikey readers will remember that I have written about Robertson before — more in frustration than anything else, as it’s always been clear that the Machine’s worst enemy was himself. Until this tournament he’s been a goofy kid, capable of making shots so bad they wouldn’t pass muster in a Northcote pub — and all through sheer lack of concentration, maturity and focus.

He has that well licked now — although he seems to have developed a Lleyton Hewitt-esque airpunch, as a compensating mechanism. But he’s utterly focused and paced now, whereas before he was a mess — by his own account a lazy skeghead who wouldn’t practice, forgets to bring shoes to a tournament, and talks about his battle with acne.

But success is success is success. He’s put it all together, and put himself right up there with the mercurial Ronnie O’Sullivan as the two most intriguing players in the game.

Whatever happens, and however little snooker matters to the wider world, the kid’s a champion. He deserves a hometown ticker-tape parade, for goddsake. In the colours of the balls. Attention must be paid.

Peter Fray

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