World number 97 Cao Yupeng was left wondering what could have been as he blew a golden opportunity to win his first ranking title against Neil Robertson.
Cao takes the afternoon session 5-3
After a week to remember in the build-up to his maiden ranking final, Cao Yupeng did not freeze on the big stage and got off to an excellent start. A break of 82 gave the underdog victory in the opening frame before Robertson struck back in the second. Yet even then, the number nine seed had to battle hard to edge out Cao following a break of 62.
Robertson then quickly found himself 3-1 behind with Cao manufacturing two more breaks over 50, boasting a 70 and 72 as his consistency continued. The favourite kept in the contest with a success in the fifth but breaks of 66, 53 and 67 earned Cao the next two frames. With the score at 5-2, the next frame was critical and breaks of 64 and 50 ensured the contest was not out of reach for Robertson.
Robertson pounces on Cao mistakes
Yet Cao got off to a flying start in a high-quality evening session. Another break of 72 gave Cao a four-frame cushion again before Robertson produced an excellent 132 to remind his opponent of the ability the Thunder possesses. However, Cao edged further towards his monumental goal and formulated an 81 and 66 as Robertson scored just six points in the next two frames.
With Cao potentially beginning to let his thoughts consider lifting his first trophy, Robertson struck back with an incredible display of tactical snooker. After a break of 85 narrowed the score to 8-5, Robertson won three more consecutive frames without scoring a break over 50, drawing level at 8-8 on the final black of the frame. For Cao, there were too many errors creeping into his game as the pressure took its toll.
The momentum was undoubtedly with the Aussie after recovering from 8-5 down to take the contest to a final frame decider and he sealed victory with a break of 59. Robertson admitted he "felt terrible for Cao" after winning his 21st title.
For Cao, it was a huge lesson to learn. He explained to the BBC, "I put too much pressure on myself. My heart needs to be stronger. That's what I need to learn from Neil and the top 16 players."