Ailing Robertson dethroned as Masters king

Neil Robertson's reign as snooker's Masters Champion is over at the first hurdle after the under-the-weather Australian's calamitous day began with him forgetting to bring his cue - and only got worse.

Robertson, among the strong favourites to defend one of the sport's major trophies at Alexandra Palace, might have known it would be one of those days when, a few minutes on the road from his Cambridge home on Sunday, he had to return to pick up the cue he'd absent-mindedly left at home.

Then, once at the London venue where he won his second Masters crown last year, he looked a shadow of himself in the tournament's opening game, feeling dreadful as he went down fighting 6-4 to fellow former world champ Shaun Murphy.

"In the circumstances, it was probably one of the best performances of my career," reflected Robertson, who had shown considerable resolve when 5-1 down and almost out.

"I had a horrendous bout of flu over the Christmas and New Year period and just been in bed really for a week and a half," the 40-year-old told Eurosport.

"I've only been doing about 45 minutes practice at my local club, about the best I could do, been on a lot of painkillers and was really struggling out there physically."

The Melburnian left-hander did take the opening frame with a 73 break after a Murphy miscue, but then had a wretched time, quite out of sorts as his normally immaculate break-building game malfunctioned.

He lost five frames on the bounce while only managing to rack up a highest break of 38 with Murphy missing a green that should have wrapped up a 6-1 win.

Instead, Robertson eked out a win in that marathon 48-minute frame and then, in Murphy's words, "played snooker from the Gods" for 45 minutes with breaks of 84 and 104 to bring the match back to 5-4.

Though he was delighted to make that 104, Robertson had even been on for a maximum 147 amid growing excitement from the crowd until he missed a difficult long 14th red.

But the Victorian couldn't keep the magic going in the 10th frame, as he admitted to feeling "disappointed" to exit the prestigious 16-man tournament.

"The crowd gave me something, especially during the 147 attempt, so at least I felt I could make some kind of match of it, but Sean let me off the hook really," said Robertson.

"I was struggling so much physically, it was only really during the 147 attempt that the adrenaline kicked in, like a second wind - but, physically, my knees were shaking on early every shot at that point."