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Hawkins beaten in Players final
Hawkins beaten in Players final

Neil Robertson claimed his third major title of the season with a dominant 10-5 defeat of Kent’s Barry Hawkins in the final of the Players Championship in Wolverhampton.

In a repeat of last month’s Masters final, Robertson once again proved too strong for his old foe as he supplemented that victory, along with his English Open success earlier in the campaign, by chalking up the 22nd ranking title win of a career that is surely closing in on greatness.

Having seen his lead pegged back from 5-1 to 5-3 at the conclusion of the afternoon session, Robertson kept his cool after Hawkins again rallied in the evening session to close out the match by winning three frames in a row with breaks of 116, 51 and 69.

To his credit, Hawkins put up a much better fight than when completely outplayed by Robertson in that Masters final, bookending the opening session by winning the first and eighth frame, but Robertson had assumed early control when reeling off three successive centuries in a blitz that ensured he was able to keep his opponent at arms length thereafter.

Upon the resumption, 5-3 soon became 7-3 as Robertson appeared to be eyeing another early finish, only for Hawkins to dig in by claiming the next two frames and keep alive his hopes of adding to his triumph in this event back in 2014.

Robertson had other ideas, however, and returned from the mid-session interval by producing more of the devastating snooker that has typified the Australian’s campaign so far.

While his trademark long potting grew stronger as the winning line came in sight, Hawkins’ effort finally began to peter out and Robertson needed no second invitation to put the finishing touches to another brilliant week’s work, one which earnt him another trophy and a first prize of £125,000.

Robertson told World Snooker Tour: “I’m over the moon. I didn’t expect too much coming here, as I’d just come out of Covid-19 isolation four or five days before the event.

“I didn’t produce my best snooker getting to the final. I was playing really well in the big moments and had hard fought wins. The way I came out and played today was my best snooker. Barry showed tremendous character to close it to 5-3 and 7-5. I found something once again to close it out.

“When you add in the couple of Masters and Champion of Champions wins to the 22 ranking titles, it makes me really proud. John Higgins has said this is the hardest era there has ever been in snooker. You have the Class of 92 and then myself, Selby, Trump, Murphy and all of the young Chinese players like Bingtao and Xintong. It has an unbelievable mix to the tour of experience and freshness to keep everyone on their toes.

“I noticed earlier in the week that I had lost in the final of this event a few times. It is nice to win it. This is like the Masters, in that is a top 16 event, but this is harder to get to qualify for a way. It is only the top 16 on the one-year list and there are some tremendous players not here this week. It rewards the most in form players and every match you will play is against someone full of confidence.”