Robertson vs Allen: Part Four

The final two first round ties get under way on Wednesday with the world no.1 taking centre stage at the Alexandra Palace in London.

Yesterday saw one former champion be eliminated and one progress as there were mixed fortunes for favourites Ding Junhui and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Four-time champion O’Sullivan had zero problems in dismantling the challenge of fellow Englishman Robert Milkins.

The ‘Rocket’ thumped Milkins 6-1, bringing his total frame aggregate score against the Gloucester potter to a dominating 30-5 across five encounters.

O’Sullivan has proved his worth already this season when pitted against the game’s elite when he won the inaugural Champion of Champions in Coventry and the world champion will be favourite to emerge victorious on Sunday despite being in arguably the more difficult half of the draw.

On the other side, 2011 champion Ding went down 6-4 to Shaun Murphy despite at one point appearing in complete control of proceedings when 4-2 in front.

After a delay of more than an hour due to a local power cut, the pair got their clash off to a blistering start with a barrage of quick-fire single-scoring visits.

The encounter was finely poised at 2-2 during the interval but thereafter both players lost their way.

Ding rode his luck to move two clear and had a golden opportunity in the seventh frame to go to within one of a place in the quarter-final, but missed a routine red, one of many, to allow his opponent in to capitalise.

Murphy, looking fit and dapper having lost a considerable amount of weight in recent months, dominated the remainder of the contest to advance to a last eight contest with Marco Fu.

Murphy hasn’t won a significant piece of silverware in almost three years, when he collected the maiden PTC Grand Finals trophy in Dublin, but does boast both the other majors, the World and UK Championship.

Therefore, were he to go one step further than his runner-up place two seasons ago he would become the second player in as many months to join the career Triple Crown club.

The newest member is of course Neil Robertson, who must overcome a tricky challenge in the shape of Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen today.

The Australian has been in superb form throughout this season with two ranking titles, a further final and a record-breaking 65 century breaks to his credit.

Robertson and Allen have a habit of meeting each other in this event. Indeed, this is the fourth time in a row, with the head-to-head slightly tipped in Robertson’s favour.

That said, all of their contests have tended to be close affairs, particularly last year’s which went down to a highly dramatic decider.

Allen appeared to have put Robertson in a defining snooker only for the Melbourne man to sink a red off the cushion and subsequently go on to make a match-winning ton.

Allen, a two-time World Open winner, is still awaiting his first major crown but one feels that could be realised at any given moment and in any given major tournament.

Should he overcome Robertson at the opening hurdle, the 27 year-old will hold no fear for anyone else remaining in the draw.

In fact, Allen’s fiery temperament ensures that he generally doesn’t suffer from awe at the worst of times.

Robertson will start the match, understandably, as favourite, though, and a key factor will be how Allen can restrict the Melbourne man’s supreme scoring power of late.

In the other last 16 bout, Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden do battle in perhaps one of the more forgotten matches of the tournament.

Every other tie has featured standout potential champions and, no disrespect to either of these two competitors, their consistency is not really a trait that will ultimately produce success in this tournament.

The Masters champions reel generally boasts the cream of those playing the best snooker at that point of the campaign.

While Hawkins and Walden undoubtedly deserve their places in the event – one is the Crucible runner-up, the other a semi-finalist in Sheffield and in York in 2013 after all – one imagines they will have to up their level in order to realistically challenge for the title, especially with Ronnie as a quarter-final prospect.

The full draw can be viewed here

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