26.5.09

PAST MASTERS#2

Continuing our series on ex-professionals...

Alain Robidoux followed in the footsteps of those great Canadian snooker players of the 1980s – Cliff Thorburn, Kirk Stevens and Bill Werbeniuk – and was his country’s no.1 player for a decade.

Robidoux was a French Canadian with an accent likened by one snooker journalist to Inspector Clouseau.

He was a friendly, laidback sort who reached ninth in the world rankings until his cue was broken beyond repair, which heralded a shockingly sudden decline and, ultimately, the end of his professional career.

Bizarrely, Robidoux joined the pro tour without winning a match. In the late 1980s, the WPBSA had a number of ‘non tournament’ professionals. They were on the ranking list but couldn’t play in most of the ranking events.

Robidoux could enter the 1988 World Championship but his first two opponents failed to show up and he amassed enough points to finish in the top 128 and thus join the tour full time.

He made an immediate impact by reaching the televised phase of his first tournament, the Fidelity International, and taking Steve Davis to a decider.

A month later, he reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix, losing 9-7 to Alex Higgins and it was clear he would soon pose a threat to the game’s elite.

In September 1988, he became only the sixth player ever to record an officially ratified 147 maximum break in the qualifiers for the European Open.

It took only two full seasons for him to be promoted to the top 16 and in 1990 joined Thorburn and Bob Chaperon in winning the World Team Cup for Canada.

Like many players, Robidoux’s form came and went in spells but by 1996 he was on an upward curve once again.

He qualified for the Crucible and drew Ronnie O’Sullivan in a match that ended in bitterness and controversy. Well ahead, O’Sullivan played left-handed for the first time in a major tournament. Robidoux believed he was making fun of him and, at 9-3 and with many, many snookers required on the pink, played on to make his point.

O’Sullivan elected not to pot the pink and so viewers watching live on the BBC were treated to ten minutes of nonsense.

Neither player covered themselves in glory with some ill judged post-match comments but they had patched things up by the German Open the following season, where they fought out a high quality final which O’Sullivan won 9-7.

In 1997, Robidoux enjoyed a run to the semi-finals of the World Championship, where his bid to emulate Thorburn as champion was ended in a 17-7 defeat to Ken Doherty.

It saw Robidoux rise to ninth in the world and poised to enjoy perhaps the best spell of his career.

But it wasn’t to be. Robidoux needed repairs done to his cue and sent it back to the man who had originally made it.

However, the cue maker was, it would be fair to say, something of a traditionalist and objected to Robidoux having fixed a sponsor’s logo to the butt end.

He objected so much that he smashed the cue up into several pieces.

It could not be repaired and Robidoux was forced to start the following season with a new model. But it didn’t feel the same and he failed to win a single match the whole campaign.

“It was like losing my right arm,” he said.

His form gone, he plummeted down the rankings and considered quitting altogether after suffering from bouts of depression.

Several years later I asked him his views on the cue maker, thinking the passage of time may have eased his anger.

“I want to kill him,” was his heartfelt response.

Robidoux never recovered from the incident and eventually slipped off the tour.

He still plays in Canada and also commentates on pool in French for Canadian television.

11 comments:

RichP said...

I'd forgotten how high up the list Robidoux had got to. The actions of the cuemaker were bizarre to say the least and it's a shame it affected Robidoux so much. It's good to know what these guys are up to these days. Steve James is another i'd like to hear about - never forget waking up as a teenager to find that James had knocked Hendry out of the quarter-finals of the Worlds, big upset.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Robidoux ever contemplated an action for damages - not only to his cue, but to loss of earnings

Donal said...

I live in Montreal and occassionally see Robidoux commentating in French on pool (channel RDS in case anyone's interested).

It's a shame what happened to his cue, surely he must have a legal case? However, he was a horifically boring player to watch and I doubt many neutrals were too sorry to see the back of him

Anonymous said...

Good article, Dave.

As an aside, I recall Alain practising at the Matchroom back in the mid to late 80's with Vic Harris. Even in practice he was slow.

He used to eat dinner at The Golden Chopsticks in Romford High Street. Excellent eatery that was before it burnt to the ground.

jamie said...

Is there any footage of this ten minutes of nonsense, I would like to see it. Is it true he lived in Walsall for a while?

Monique said...

here you go
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJvEolVSE3c&feature=related

Anonymous said...

The Golden Chopsticks was a great chinese. was you there anon when it burned down? i ask cos i heard a rumour that the staff was taking out the woks just before it went up in flames.

Anonymous said...

Nope, Anon @ 7.22 I wasn't there.

I understand, and it was proved once the fire brigade did their stuff, it was "allegedly" a defective hand-drier that caught fire after the khazi flooded.

Mr Wee Wong opened a new takeaway in Hornchurch and another in Gidea Park after he got the insurance dosh.

He died a few years ago in Kenya after being bitten by a gnu.

Dave H said...

Jamie - Alain did play in Walsall. In fact he practised with last week's past master Martin Clark for quite a time.

Chris said...

If it wasn't for the cue incident who knows how much further he would have gone?

Anonymous said...

a bit further than he went is about all anyones educated guess could tell