Neil Robertson produced a stellar performance to reach the second round of the Australian Open in Bendigo.
The local favourite wasted little time in dispatching of former World Championship finalist Nigel Bond, knocking in five breaks above 80 in a 5-1 thumping.
Two of those breaks included a 113 and a tournament leading 135 as he banished the painful memories of an unexpected last 16 exit at the hands of Dominic Dale last year.
Robertson is unsurprisingly the poster boy for the event in his native Victoria and, having done so much in the last two years since his World Championship triumph to raise the profile of snooker Down Under, it will be hoped that he can go on a deep run in 2012.
With so many of the top 16 players absent this week, the 30 year-old is one of the favourites to lift the trophy, as he would have been even if the cast had been star-studded.
Robertson is widely considered as both one of the sport’s greatest players and best ambassadors.
With the exception of John Higgins, who himself had a poor campaign last year, Robertson is the only player who has consistently been a champion on the Main Tour for the last five or six years.
Indeed, his record towards the business of events is unparalleled with the PTC Grand Finals defeat to Stephen Lee last March his only reverse in a major final.
Lee himself also progressed to the next round but under markedly different circumstances.
Arguably the player of last season, the Trowbridge potter came from 3-0 down against Rory McLeod to emerge with a narrow 5-4 victory.
That result was one of three on the opening day’s action that ended with a nail-biting deciding frame.
Welshman Ryan Day won the last two frames to edge Andrew Higginson while Ricky Walden couldn’t extend his run of late as he went down 5-4 to fellow Englishman Jamie Cope.
Cope is one of the most unpredictable players on the circuit, indeed one of the most disappointing after a couple of seriously barren campaigns.
However, the scalp of the recent Wuxi Classic champion should boost his confidence, especially after scoring heavily with breaks of 95, 103 and 93.
Meanwhile, Crucible semi-finalist Matthew Stevens contested his first match of the new season and, despite being evidently rusty, managed to see off Liang Wenbo 5-3.
Stevens did compile a classy 128 but other than that looked thoroughly out of sorts as he attempts to get back into the swing of things and was lucky to be up against Liang – a rival of Cope’s for the most inconsistent players.
Elsewhere, Tom Ford was the sixth man into the second round following a 5-2 win over Dominic Dale while Alan McManus and Cao Yupeng had no problems in seeing off wildcard opponents James Mifsud and Johl Younger respectively to join the Last 32 proper.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.
Categories: Snooker News