Neil Robertson
Ranking, Snooker Headlines, Tournaments, World Championship

Neil Robertson: ‘Everything’s there – it’s still the Crucible’

The Australian won the last five frames of his first-round contest on Sunday.

Second seed Neil Robertson is through to the last 16 of the 2020 World Snooker Championship after a 10-5 victory over Liang Wenbo in Sheffield.

Four-time winner John Higgins matched the scoreline by ousting Matthew Stevens, while Kurt Maflin became the first qualifier to triumph in this year’s rescheduled edition by beating David Gilbert 10-8.

Melbourne’s Robertson received one of the toughest opponents when the draw was made last Wednesday, with Liang representing a former top 16 player and ranking event winner.

It looked as though it was going to be a tight affair when the opening session ended 5-4 in favour of the world number two.

Liang then immediately restored parity upon the resumption, but Robertson eventually gained control of proceedings.

A key interchange of play materialised in the 13th frame when Liang had the opportunity to trail by only one frame at the last mid-session interval, but instead Robertson pinched the frame on the black to lead 8-5 and there was no way back for the Chinese competitor.

Robertson said: “When the draw came out, there’s so many debutants this year and as a seed it’s always nice to draw one because they’re not really used to the Crucible at all.”

“To draw Liang, who has had a couple of decent results here and has been a top 16 player, it was probably up there with the toughest draws.

“He made an unbelievable break to go 5-5 and was thinking ‘I’ve got to shake this guy off somehow’, and funnily enough it was when I started to miss a couple of balls that he started to miss a couple.

“The crowd can generally create a lot of tension at the Crucible, but it seemed to kind of replicate that when I missed a couple, he seemed to respond to it by getting nervy himself.

“The Crucible creates a different atmosphere from where we played in the Tour Championship last month.

“You’re still walking down the stairs and through the curtain, Rob (Walker) is still introducing the players, all the seats are still there, and the dividing wall with the other players playing on the other table.

“Everything is still there – obviously not the crowd – but it’s still the Crucible. It still feels great when you’re out there.

“It’s a lot easier to play than what I thought it was going to be, and I think the crowd noise and the applause when a player makes a hundred break is actually a really good bonus to have.”

Higgins, meanwhile, will face Maflin in the second round after the pair earned their respective victories on day three.

The former is bidding to become only the fourth player in the Crucible era to reach four finals on the spin, having finished runner-up in each of the last three seasons.

His clash with two-time finalist Stevens could have been a lot closer only for several inexcusable errors from the Welshman that gifted Higgins a lot of cheap frames.

On the other hand, Maflin produced one of the performances of his life to win for the first time at the Crucible with the aid of four tons.

The Norwegian was 8-7 behind before a maximum attempt was thwarted when he ran out of position on the 14th black – letting his emotions known by comically sticking his middle finger up at the cue ball.

Maflin was warned by the referee at the end of the frame, but the 36 year-old didn’t let it affect him as he duly completed the success to land the biggest payday of his professional career.

Elsewhere, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Yan Bingtao look guaranteed to progress after establishing respective 8-1 and 7-1 cushions over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Elliot Slessor overnight.

Those ties conclude on Monday with Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, and Jack Lisowski among those entering the fray.

Live coverage continues on the BBC, Eurosport, and Matchroom Live.

Click here to view the draw

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