Riga Masters: Neil Robertson among players to miss tournament after flight grounded

Neil Robertson
Robertson is ranked fourth in the world

The Riga Masters match between defending champion Neil Robertson and Rob Milkins is a thriller. Locked at 3-3, it goes to a deciding frame... except neither player is at the event in Latvia. They are stuck in England. So what happened?

Australian former world champion Robertson and England's Milkins were among a number of players left stranded at Luton airport after their flight was cancelled.

They were due to depart at 18:00 BST on Thursday ready for their game at 09:00 local time on Friday, but problems on the runway and thunderstorms scuppered their plans.

When the live scoring system on World Snooker's website began updating on Friday, the pair decided to have some fun on Twitter.

"Four centuries on the spin and not a ball missed between us," tweeted Robertson when 2-2 was given as the score.

At 3-3, he added: "Had to go for a bathroom break to tweet at 3-3. Awesome match so far, shame there has to be a loser!"

Milkins was bizarrely awarded a walkover win, and tweeted: "Yes @nr147 looks like I got the result."

But, given his absence, Ben Woollaston - who was due to face the winner - received a bye into the second round.

"It's disappointing in the circumstances," Robertson, who also won the event in 2016, told BBC Sport. "As defending champion, I'm all over the tournament posters, programme and venue.

"This is not the biggest event on the calendar, but it is annoying."

Robert Milkins
Milkins and Robertson joked on Twitter about their 'match'

Robertson believes his match could have been rearranged on a spare table at the venue.

"Maybe they could have given us a chance, although the rule is there for everybody," he added.

"For two-day events, none of the players go out there a day earlier as the flights are usually around 6am or 6pm and you don't want to get there having got up at two in the morning and not practise the day before."

World Snooker said it would have been "impossible" to reschedule all of the affected matches given the "number of players affected" and "short notice".

"It wasn't until the tournament was well under way that we were able to contact all of the affected players to confirm that they intended to withdraw," it added. "It's an unfortunate situation but beyond our control.

"We realise this is a disappointment to the fans but we hope they will still enjoy what will be a fantastic event."

Trouble on the tarmac

With a hectic schedule - the China International starts in nine days' time - many players will have planned to travel to Riga the day before the tournament started.

Kyren Wilson, Jamie O'Neill and Joe O'Connor were among others on the same flight as Robertson, and they were unable to get to Latvia in time for their later matches.

At least two other players - Duane Jones and Harvey Chandler - were also absent.

"We do live by a tight schedule," said Robertson. "There was about 10 players on the plane but we were told a private jet came into land and a tyre burst, creating debris on the tarmac.

"We were all buckled in ready to go but were just sat there and then a storm came in. We were told to get off the plane at about 10pm and flights were grounded.

"We had a look at flights for the next morning but just couldn't get anything and World Snooker don't reschedule their matches so I officially withdrew. Luckily I was able to get my cue, and I can practise today for China.

"It's just one of those rare things, and not the fault of anyone at Luton, but it was pretty bad. There were thousands of people stranded and families camped outside when I left at about 1am.

"There would have been fans in Riga who have paid money and organised accommodation to go and see the match and I feel sorry for them, although it's a nice little walkover for Ben Woollaston."

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