by Tom Pritchard
NEIL Robertson continued his fine form of late with a 4-3 comeback victory over Noppen Saengkham in the last 32 of the Welsh Open in Cardiff.
Robertson had trailed 3-1 and looked to be heading out of the competition, but the Australian managed to construct breaks of 133, 83 and 86 to win the final three frames and book his place in the last 16.
Coming off the back of his World Grand Prix win on Sunday, the 38-year-old admitted he was exhausted at the beginning of the week, but appeared to have recharged his batteries and began with an eye-catching long red in the first frame.
He missed a tricky pink to the corner not long after, however, and his Thai opponent pounced on the error, making a break of 63 – which came to an end when he failed to pot the black of its spot.
By this stage, his lead stood at 56, and Robertson – perhaps in an effort to gain some potting practice – opted to come to the table and clear up, despite knowing that he would finish short of Saengkham’s score.
The pair both hit 147 breaks at last year’s event – with Robertson going on to lift the Ray Reardon trophy for the second time – but it was the 27-year-old from Samut Pakan Province in Thailand who made the better start, as he notched a 67 break to win the second frame.
Saengkham looked to be on course to win a third consecutive frame, until his break of 31 ended when he missed the black while attempting to screw into the pack of reds.
Robertson was in no mood to let him off the hook, with a 50 break seeing him on the way to securing the third frame, which you felt was a must win to keep his hopes alive and Saengkham at arms length.
The two-frame buffer was restored shortly after, as Saengkham – ranked 33rd in the world – comfortably won the fourth to move to within one frame of victory.
Faced with the very real threat of exiting the tournament, the Aussie – who has won two of the three ranking event finals he has contested in the last three weeks – showed his class to put together a superb break of 133 to keep himself in the match.
After a tactical battle where both players were reluctant to take risks, it was Robertson who eventually broke the deadlock to open up a 42-point lead.
When Robertson missed a pink to the corner pocket, Saengkham had the chance to fight his way back into the frame, but his attempted red hit both jaws and the 2010 World champion returned to clear up and send the match to a deciding frame.
This turned out to be the momentum shifter Robertson needed, as he completed the comeback with a break of 86 in the final frame to leave Saengkham wondering what might have been.
After a hard-fought win over Welshman Jamie Clarke on Tuesday evening, the Thunder from Down Under stated that he had considered withdrawing from the event after a busy few weeks, before explaining that the fact he is reigning champion eventually swayed him towards taking part.
And now you would not bet against him making a fourth final in as many weeks. The Aussie has shown that he has the motivation, with this battling display from 3-1 down worth noting when you consider the quality opponent he was up against.
Robertson will face Northern Irishman Gerard Greene in the last 16 this evening, after the 46-year-old defeated Welshman Daniel Wells 4-2 earlier today.