World no. 1 Neil Robertson eased past Marcus Campbell in the first round of the Australian Open – despite admitting afterwards that he could have pulled out sick.
The Wuxi Classic champion has been waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats and had to fight off persistent coughing during his 5-1 drubbing of his Scottish opponent.
The revelation makes the 31 year-old’s slow start all the more understandable as he failed to get out of the blocks early on.
A succession of uncharacteristic play gave Campbell an initial advantage as it looked for a moment as if the Aussie’s hate-affair with his home tournament might continue.
But the 2010 world champion gained composure in the next with a good break of 71 to level the match and he was in complete control thereafter as Campbell failed to settle.
Robertson had a top run of 103 in the fourth frame and comfortably completed the rout after the mid-session interval to book a meeting with Jamie Cope in the last 16.
Robertson has been the form man of late having claimed back-to-back ranking titles in China, as well as reaching the final of the Bulgarian Open at the start of the campaign, and is unsurprisingly the favourite in the betting market at sports.bwin.com/en/snooker.
With so many of the world’s top players absent from Bendigo this week, the ‘Thunder from Down Under’ will be hoping to finally embark on a deeper run into the business end of his local event.
He will especially be conscious of the fact that this is the last year that the Australian Open is under contract and there are no guarantees that World Snooker will be returning to the country in 2014.
A lot will depend on his precarious health, but he has a couple of days to further his recovery before taking on Stoke’s Cope, who came from behind to pip Martin Gould 5-4.
It’s been a difficult few years for the ‘Shotgun’, especially since dealing with an inherited disease known as Essential Tremor.
But this is very much the kind of tournament whereby the two-time ranking event finalist could regain the confidence needed to get back nearer the elite – like how the respective 2011 and 2012 triumphs for Stuart Bingham and Barry Hawkins spurred on their careers.
Amazingly, for somebody who has been around for so long, Cope is still only 27 so has many years potentially at the top to come.
Elsewhere, former champions Bingham and Hawkins wasted little time in seeing off Dechawat Poomjaeng and Noppon Saengkham 5-1 respectively while Zhang Anda and Tom Ford also advanced to the second round.
Earlier in the day, Mike Dunn came from the brink of defeat to overcome wildcard Steve Mifsud 5-4 in a tense affair.
Welshman Michael White had no such problems as he whitewashed Shaun Dalitz 5-0 in comprehensive fashion with a top run of 122.
Tomorrow, Dubliner Fergal O’Brien challenges Ricky Walden while his countryman Ken Doherty enters the fray on Wednesday against Marco Fu.
In a blow to the tournament, China’s Ding Junhui has withdrawn, giving Rory McLeod a walkover into the next round.
The full draw and list of results can be viewed by clicking here.