Neil Robertson and Jak Jones will face each other in the second round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Neil Robertson
After spending so many years among the top four of the world rankings, it seems a little strange to think of Neil Robertson as just the sixth seed.
But to put it simply, it’s been a shocking season for the Australian in relation to what we’ve become used to.
There have been several incredible standalone displays, but supplementary to that have been poor outings that have resulted in his failure to reach a single ranking final all season.
Robertson did claim silverware with the help of Thailand’s Mink Nutcharut in the World Mixed Doubles.
But last season the 41 year-old triumphed in both the Players and Tour Championship, highlighting the surprise in his failure to even qualify for either event through the one-year rankings list this term.
Robertson has endured disappointment after disappointment at the Crucible since winning the world title in 2010, but perhaps he might benefit this year from flying in under the radar a touch.
This season for Jak Jones
Jak Jones is one of five Crucible debutants in the field in 2023, and his qualification sort of came out of nowhere.
Apart from a few wins at the Shoot Out and the Welsh Open, the 29 year-old hadn’t really done much all season.
In the world qualifiers, the world number 52 beat Adam Duffy, Robbie Williams in a decider, and most impressively Barry Hawkins on Judgement Day.
Some Crucible rookies thrive in the unexpected limelight while others crumble under the intensified media scrutiny and pressure.
Jones appears to fall into the former category, and just getting this far is an achievement in itself for the former European amateur champion.
What happened in the first round?
Robertson produced arguably the highest overall standard of the first round with his 10-3 thrashing of Wu Yize.
The latter compiled a brace of centuries and an 82 on his debut appearance but was powerless to prevent a powerhouse performance from the Melbourne man.
Robertson made four tons of his own, including a couple of rare 146 total clearances in the space of three remarkable frames.
Jones, meanwhile, upset the odds to defeat Ali Carter 10-6 and join a long line of Welsh players who have performed strongly on their first Crucible appearance.
Neil Robertson and Jak Jones head-to-head
Interestingly, Jones has won two out of the three encounters he has played with Robertson over the years.
The pair first clashed at the Riga Open in 2014 when the Welshman prevailed in a decider before Robertson won their next tie just a few months later.
More recently, Jones beat Robertson 4-1 in the last 16 of the 2022 Gibraltar Open while compiling breaks of 122, 82, 58, and 52.
Those memories can’t do any harm, but three best-of-seven duels provide very little insight into what may transpire in a much longer affair here.
The likes of Matthew Stevens, Jamie Jones, Michael White, and Lee Walker have all reached the quarter-finals on their Crucible debuts.
That’s not to forget Terry Griffiths, who as a qualifier went all the way to the final before capturing the title in 1979.
To match his countrymen, Jones will likely have to produce the performance of his career so far.
Robertson played so well in the last 32 that there were some who immediately queried whether or not he had already peaked too early in the competition.
This has happened to the former world number one previously in Sheffield, but even so, it would be a seismic surprise to see him fall at this hurdle against such an inexperienced challenger.
Prediction: Neil Robertson 13-7 Jak Jones
Friday, April 21st – 10am and 7pm
Saturday, April 22nd – 2:30pm
Featured photo credit: WST
I do worry for Jak Jones in this match as Robertson’s preparation seems to be more comprehensive this year and his scoring power was sensational in round one. Jak Jones will need to up his own scoring if he’s going to stick close with the greatest non British player we’ve ever seen. Prediction: Robertson 13-5 Jones