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In-form Neil Robertson heads to Crucible full of confidence

Jim van Wijk, PA
·4-min read

Neil Robertson is going to let everyone else worry about his form rather than how the draw might pan out as he aims to win a second World Snooker Championship title.

Since the Australian lifted the sport’s biggest prize at the Crucible in 2010, he has only reached the semi-finals once.

Away from Sheffield, though, the 39-year-old has continued to collect plenty of trophies, with 20 career ranking titles to his name.

Neil Robertson celebrates with the UK Championship trophy
Neil Robertson has won 20 ranking titles (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Last month’s emphatic 10-4 defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship final has again seen Robertson touted as a leading contender to secure another world crown.

Following Thursday’s draw, third seed Robertson has been paired against Liang Wenbo, while six-time champion O’Sullivan will open his defence against debutant Mark Joyce.

World number one Judd Trump plays Liam Highfield, while former champion Stuart Bingham, another who came through qualifying, will meet China’s Ding Junhui in the pick of the first-round contests.

Three-time former champion Mark Selby takes on against Kurt Maflin, while 2020 runner-up Kyren Wilson meets Gary Wilson, a former semi-finalist, and Masters champion Yan Bingtao faces qualifier Martin Gould.

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Robertson, though, will not spend too much time dissecting the draw.

“The way I have been playing this season, I am not really too worried about who I am playing,” said Robertson.

“If you ask Liang, he probably won’t be too happy about the draw, whereas I am not really too fussed on who I am playing, it is about how I approach the game.

“If I play well, I think I will win. It will be a tough game, but hopefully I will have too much (for him).

Liang Wenbo will face Neil Robertson in the first round
Liang Wenbo will face Neil Robertson in the first round (Nigel French/PA)

“This season I have always played matches on my terms, they have always been aggressive, open games which brings the best out of me.

“I have just got to concentrate on people being worried about what I can bring to the match, rather than stopping other people from playing. I have just got to go out to attack as well as I can.”

The 2021 tournament begins on Saturday and will see fans return to the Crucible as part of the Government pilot programme following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, with organisers hopeful a capacity crowd will be able to attend the final.

Robertson feels even though there will be fans at the event, it will still not be quite the same atmosphere as pre-coronavirus championships.

Fans arrive at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield for the World Snooker Championship
Fans will be back at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield for the 2021 World Snooker Championship (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

“You don’t want to be mixing with people, even if they have the best intentions – if you were to pick it (Covid-19) up, you would be out of the event,” said Robertson, who has not returned to Australia for 20 months because of the pandemic.

“I am going to have a policy this year of where I am not stopping for socially-distanced selfies or signing anything. You just can’t afford to do that on the ridiculous chance of catching it. It would be pretty disastrous.”

Despite the easing of restrictions allowing haircuts again, Robertson has not yet opted for a trip to the barbers.

“The owner of my club said I can’t, he said: ‘you will lose all of your power if you get your hair cut’ – so like Samson,” the Australian joked.

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“It is more like a lion’s mane now, so if I get my hair cut and get beat, then everyone will blame it on the haircut.”

The World Snooker Tour confirmed play would be paused for a period of silence to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at 3pm on Saturday.

Matches on both tables will stop at the same time at the Crucible, where the four players and two referees will wear black armbands.

John Higgins at the table during the World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield.
Play will be paused for a period of silence to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral on Saturday afternoon (Richard Sellers/PA)

“This will be the first time in the 94-year history of the Championship that we have paused matches in order to honour the royal family and a country that is in mourning,” a WST spokesman said.

“The session will start at 2.30pm as planned and then just before 3pm, the matches will be paused.

“This event is broadcast to over 100 countries around the globe so people watching worldwide can pay their respects to Prince Philip at the same time.”