Could this be Jack Lisowski's breakthrough season after losing Riga Masters final to Neil Robertson?

Could this be Jack Lisowski's breakthrough season after losing Riga Masters final to Neil Robertson?

A professional since 2010, the 27-year old finally reached his first ranking final in Latvia.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

Neil Robertson picking up the first ranking title of the 2018/19 season would not be a shock to anyone. Often a fast starter following the summer break, the world number ten added to his 13 previous ranking titles and 2016 Riga Masters success with another stellar performance in Latvia.

Yet it was his fellow finalist who could be raising a few eyebrows as Jack Lisowski manufactured a huge confidence boost to kickstart a new campaign.

Is this his year?

After turning professional eight years ago, Lisowski was included in the same bracket as Judd Trump when pundits and fans considered the next generation to take the sport by storm at the turn of the decade. Yet it has been a story of contrasting fortunes for Trump, who has eight ranking titles to his name at the age of 28, compared to Lisowski failing to even make a final until this week.

The Jackpot had barely even shown glimpses of the form that could suggest he was capable of producing on the big stage. He reached just two quarter-finals in any competition between 2010 and 2017 before finally starting to showcase his talent last season.

Two further quarter-finals, at the English Open and China Open, were trumped by a semi-final appearance at the Shanghai Masters. Yet he clearly feels more at home abroad with this latest success in Riga the sixth time he has gone beyond the last 16, five of which have been manufactured overseas.

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Finding form

After cruising through qualification in July, Lisowski eased past Ian Burns in the opening round proper whilst Robertson defeated Li Yuan by the same scoreline of 4-2. It was a solid opening for both players when the likes of Barry Hawkins, Luca Brecel and Anthony McGill all succumbed to early season malfunctions.

Into the second round and Lisowski stormed past Oliver Lines with a 4-0 victory. He would have expected to be facing world champion Mark Williams in the last 16 but the Welshman was stunned by Zhang Yong. As Shaun Murphy was thrashed by Zhao Xintong and Ali Carter was defeated by Mark Allen in a tough draw, Robertson played out an epic with Liang Wenbo, winning a final frame decider after Liang made a clearance of 140 earlier in the match, missing out on a maximum only because he potted two reds at the same time.

Other than Ricky Walden and Chris Wakelin stunning Allen and Mark King respectively, the last 16 had a more familiar set of scorelines. The likes of Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Kyren Wilson all made it through, whilst Lisowski thrashed Zhang 4-1 and Robertson stumbled past Craig Steadman.

Carrington and Lisowski create history

As Stuart Carrington, Maguire and Robertson won their quarter-finals 4-2, Lisowski was beginning to look the form player, hammering Dott 4-0. And he was not to be overawed in only his second ever semi-final, seeing off Maguire 5-1 to drop just four frames from 25 across the weekend. However, the tried and tested Robertson was also finding his range, bypassing Carrington 5-0 who was also playing in his first ranking semi-final.

Yet Robertson did not look completely fine-tuned, despite racing into a 3-0 advantage during the final. After scratching through the opening frame, a fortunate rebound on the jaws allowed him to win the second on the final black. However, a 117 break should have put the fear into Lisowski as he opened a comfortable advantage.

That wasn't the case, though, as the underdog forced himself onto the scoreboard, although his excitement was short-lived when Robertson edged a scrappy frame five where both players missed good chances. Lisowski hit back in the next contest but Robertson responded to secure a three-frame margin of victory, the same as their only other previous meeting six years ago, to win 5-2 and lift the first silverware of the season.

Questions now remain for both players...can Robertson maintain his form for the rest of the season? Could Lisowski use this impressive weekend as a platform to build his career? The answers will be revealed over the next ten months...

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