Jimmy Robertson in fine form ahead of Northern Ireland Open despite Covid isolation


European Masters 2018 - Day 7 (Final)

Jimmy Robertson heads to Belfast this week in fine fettle (Picture: Getty Images)

Jimmy Robertson has begun the season in impressive fashion and will be heading to the Northern Ireland Open this week full of confidence, despite a frustrating time in isolation due to Covid-19.

The 35-year-old reached just his second ranking semi-final at the British Open in August and picked up some encouraging results in the Championship League and Home Nations qualifiers to boot.

It was just the start to the campaign that he was looking for after a disappointing 2020/21 season which saw him come surprisingly – for a player of his ability – close to losing his tour card.

Robertson took control of the situation and has made a number of changes off the table which are paying off immediately. A new mental coach, management team and fitness regime have turned things around and he is feeling as confident as he has in a long time.

Being hit with Covid has just slowed his momentum a little, but he doesn’t intend to let it stop him in his tracks.

‘I’ve been in isolation, which is pretty boring,’ Robertson told Metro.co.uk. ‘I couldn’t taste or smell, booked in a PCR test and it come back positive, which is a bit of a nightmare.

‘I feel absolutely fine. I’ve been trying to do some little circuits in the house because I’ve been loving going out running at the minute. The last three months I’ve been doing a lot of running, exercising a lot, getting fitter, running has become part of the everyday routine.

‘Some days you can’t be bothered, but I’ve been pushing myself, getting out in the rain, when I’m tired, now I’m in a routine it makes me feel better about myself.’

Robertson feels his new fitness push has helped him on the table, as has his work with coach AP O’Neill and signing up with Elite Sports Management.

‘It’s a combination of things, I think,’ he said of his good form. ‘It’s funny how the brain works, when the brain’s telling you that something’s working for you then you tend to stick with it and that’s in your head. If anything helps then use it.

‘I’m working with a head [mental] coach at the minute and joined a new management team which is changing it up a bit. Speaking to my head coach once a week, running and the management, as well as getting on a run with some confidence, you get on a roll. With those four things together, you’ve got every chance.

‘It’s a good start to the season, I’ve done pretty much as well as I could have, unless I nicked a tournament. Got through the first group of the Championship League, semis at the British and won both my qualifiers since then, I’m in a good place.’

Welsh Open 2020 - Day 4

Jimmy Robertson (Picture: Getty Images)

Robertson could have done without a spell inside just before the Northern Ireland Open, but given the positive mindset he is in, he is not letting it get him down.

‘I’m out of isolation on Thursday and I fly Friday, so it’s not the best preparation but there’s not a lot I can do about it,’ he said. ‘Take it as it is, hopefully get through the first round and I’ll have a day or two on the practice table.

‘Sometimes when you don’t expect massive things you can relax a bit more, so we’ll see what happens.’

That first round is a tricky one against world number 17 Zhou Yuelong, but the world number 48 is far from afraid of the Chinese star because he has played him four times and won all four.

‘I haven’t lost to him yet but he’s a different player now to when I’ve played him before,’ said Jimmy. ‘But I feel like I am too, I’m in a good place.

‘It is nice to have a good head-to-head record with anyone, I’m going to be confident because I know I’ve not lost to him

‘Last time we played I beat him in the European which I won, 4-3 on the re-spot, so hopefully that’s in his head.’

Zhou Yuelong will be looking for his first win over Jimmy Robertson (Picture: Getty Images)

It is impossible to talk to Robertson without mentioning his remarkable triumph at the 2018 European Masters, which saw the Bexhill man lift the title never having reached a ranking semi-final beforehand.

Several twists of fate took him to the trophy and he says it is never too far from his mind.

‘I do think about it still, when things are bad people remind me of what I’ve actually done,’ he explained. ‘This game is so hard sometimes and the last two seasons I’ve had such a bad time on the table, when you’re losing you lose your confidence but people remind me I’ve won a raking event, I can do it.

‘That week it was just meant to be, I didn’t play phenomenal, but things just went my way. First qualifier I won 4-3 on the final pink, then 4-3 on the black first round, 4-3 re-spot against Zhou, 3-0 down against Anthony McGill and won 4-3 on the black, it was mad.

‘I started relaxing and playing better snooker in the quarter-final, beat Mark Allen, Mark King and then Joe Perry, the writing was on the wall, it was crazy.

‘I’ve been professional quite a long time now and there’s players that have been professional longer than me and not everyone’s won a tournament. It’s obviously everyone’s dream to win a tournament so I know that feeling now, lifting the trophy, it’s an unbelievable feeling and I’d absolutely love to do it again.’

Robertson (Picture: Getty Images)

The Englishman’s career has not really followed an upward curve since that shock victory in Belgium, and while he says he wasn’t expecting to be catapulted into the elite of the game, he did think there would have been more success to come.

‘I didn’t expect to be doing finals and semis regularly after that, but I also didn’t expect what has happened to happen,’ he said.

‘I’ve had so many first round exits, I didn’t kick on at all, so it’s only this season that I feel I’m getting back to the same levels of belief and confidence I was at before. Semi-finals at the British Open, that winning feeling and getting to the latter stages, it’s all fresh again and hopefully I can win another one.

‘I just lost a couple of games, that turns into a couple more games and all of a sudden your confidence is gone even though you’ve just won a tournament.

‘You start playing bad snooker and before you know it you can’t win a game, it just spirals. The top boys are 100 times more consistent than everyone else, but we’re all capable of beating each other, but it’s such a confidence game, it is for me anyway.

‘I can be dangerous for anyone, but if I’m struggling with my head and my belief then it’s the hardest game in the world. I’m working on the head now, so hopefully I won’t get in that situation again.’

As with every season, Robertson is eyeing up another tournament win, but is also just hoping to enjoy his snooker again after the tough times of the last campaign, which saw him need to pick up a win in World Championship qualifying to save his tour card.

‘Every single season the aim is to win a tournament, then the rankings take care of themselves,’ he said. ‘Mainly I’m aiming just to relax and enjoy it this season.

‘Last season I was looking at rankings so much, worrying about them and keeping my tour card. It’s horrible and you can’t play like that, I put way too much pressure on myself. I’ve taken the pressure off already with that good run [at the British Open] so it’s relaxing and enjoying it from now on.’

Another aim for Robertson is to return to the Crucible, where he has played four times before, but is still looking for his first win on snooker’s grandest stage.

Amid the recent discussion about whether the World Championship should remain at the iconic Sheffield venue, Robertson is certain the Crucible is the best place for snooker’s biggest show.

‘I’ve only played there four times in my life, I’ve never won either, but I love it there,’ he said. ‘I don’t know where else you’d have it, but it’s the best venue I’ve ever played in, and I’ve never won!

‘It’s like no other place I’ve played at, I imagine the one-table is unbelievable. I’d be gutted if it moved and I’d never won a game at the Crucible.

‘It’s such a buzz walking out and even walking to the venue, knowing you’re playing there. My aim is to qualify ASAP and hopefully get a win there.’

Robertson plays on the first evening of the Northern Irish Open – Saturday 9 October at 7pm – against Zhou Yuelong.

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