Neil Robertson believes he’s back on track as he got his Welsh Open campaign off to a positive start on Monday in Llandudno.
The Australian compiled a 103 century break and made several other contributions above 50 to beat Jackson Page 4-1 and reach the last 64.
Robertson has endured a disappointing 2023/24 snooker season in which he has failed to reach the latter stages of any ranking tournament.
The Melbourne man will soon have a huge sum of ranking points deducted from his tally, which could see him plummet outside the world’s top 16.
However, there have been signs of a return to form of late, with his run to the last 16 of the German Masters followed by victory in Group 4 of the invitational Championship League last week.
“It’s good. It feels like I’ve got a bit of momentum building since the Masters,” Neil Robertson told the World Snooker Tour.
“Some good performances in Germany and last week in the Championship League. It was great to play a lot of the other top players.”
“The match practice was probably the most needed thing in my game. I just need to play matches.
“With that, your confidence builds and you sort a few things out. I feel great about my game.
“It’s the performances, scoring very heavily, the long potting is great. Everything’s really good – good rhythm around the table.
“The game is ‘back’ if you want to kind of say that, but I’m also looking to keep building on this and improving on it.
“Jackson missed a couple of balls today, but I think I put him under a lot of pressure. I looked like clearing the table every time I got a chance.”
Robertson has previously spoken about his intent to refocus both on and off the table, including adhering to stricter eating habits to maintain a healthy weight.
“I just had to sort my diet out,” the 42 year-old, who faces Stuart Carrington in the next round, said.
“After the season I had 18 months or two years ago, I maybe got a bit complacent and lazy.”
“I think we had four or five months off, which is a long time, and I just never really felt right physically.
“I was still playing perfectly fine, but I never felt completely comfortable the way I am now. I like to maintain a slim build where you feel good with the waistcoat on.
“This season, especially, I’ve noticed there’s been a bit of pressure around the waistcoat. I don’t want to go to a tailor and make it bigger, I want to force myself to drop the weight.
“It’s not like I needed to lose two stone or even a stone. It’s just a couple of kilos, but it makes a massive difference around the table.
“That’s what I’ve done, and I feel really good. There were probably five or six boxes that I had to tick to get back to my best, and I’ve managed to do that.
“Now, it’s about building momentum and getting results. I may have more tournaments to play in, I may not have many.
“But that’s not really important. The important thing is that my game is back to where I feel as though I’m ready to win big tournaments again.”
Neil Robertson Stats
Date of birth: 11 February, 1982
First turned professional: 1998
Highest ranking: 1
Ranking titles: 23
Triple Crown titles: 6
Crucible best: champion
Masters appearances: 18
147 breaks: 5
Robertson, a two-time former Welsh Open champion, needs to capture the Ray Reardon Trophy this week if he’s to secure a last-gasp qualification spot for the upcoming Players Championship through the one-year ranking list.
Elsewhere, there were victories in the held-over fixtures from qualifying for defending champion Robert Milkins and home favourite Mark Williams.
The latter was far from his best but fought back from behind to beat John Astley 4-2, while Milkins won the last two frames to edge Jamie Jones 4-3.
World champion Luca Brecel, world number three Mark Allen, and record five-time Welsh Open champion John Higgins also progressed.
Higgins thrashed Mohamed Ibrahim with a whitewash display, but Brecel and Allen required all seven frames before scrambling through in deciders.
Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, and Kyren Wilson were other notable names to safely reach the last 64.
There were defeats, however, for former champions Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy, who exited the competition with respective reverses against Elliot Slessor and Barry Pinches.
A couple of matches in the last 64 also took place on day one of this season’s final Home Nations series event.
Matthew Selt overcame Ross Muir 4-1 while Welshman Ryan Day delighted the home crowd with a 4-2 triumph over David Lilley.
2024 Welsh Open draw
Round of 128 (bo7)
Robert Milkins 4-3 Jamie Jones
Allan Taylor 4-2 Haydon Pinhey
David Gilbert 4-0 Ken Doherty
Oliver Lines 4-3 Michael White
Jack Lisowski 4-2 Oliver Brown
Liam Pullen 4-0 Rebecca Kenna
Gary Wilson 4-1 Mark Davis
Iulian Boiko 4-0 Ishpreet Singh Chadha
Long Zehuang 4-1 Andy Lee
Anthony McGill 4-1 Manasawin Phetmalaikul
Sanderson Lam 4-0 Baipat Siripaporn
Mark Williams 4-2 John Astley
Matthew Stevens 4-3 Louis Heathcote
Ricky Walden 4-2 Andy Hicks
Stuart Carrington 4-2 Reanne Evans
Neil Robertson 4-1 Jackson Page
Mark Allen 4-3 Cao Yupeng
Ma Hailong 4-2 Rory Thor
Si Jiahui 4-2 Stephen Maguire
Andrew Pagett 4-2 Mink Nutcharut
Ding Junhui 4-2 Jenson Kendrick
Robbie Williams 4-0 Peng Yisong
Adam Duffy 4-0 Zhou Yuelong
Jamie Clarke 4-3 James Cahill
David Lilley 4-0 Victor Sarkis
Ryan Day 4-3 Mostafa Dorgham
Tian Pengfei 4-0 Rod Lawler
John Higgins 4-0 Mohamed Ibrahim
Ross Muir 4-2 Stephen Hendry
Matthew Selt 4-3 Sam Craigie
Alexander Ursenbacher 0-4 Liam Davies
Duane Jones 4-2 Liam Highfield
Alfie Davies 4-1 Liam Graham
Dominic Dale 4-1 Jimmy White
Jordan Brown 4-3 Lyu Haotian
Stan Moody 4-2 Sean O’Sullivan
Zhang Anda 4-1 Ahmed Aly Elsayed
Jak Jones 4-3 Liu Hongyu
Hossein Vafaei 4-1 Scott Donaldson
Julien Leclercq 4-3 Alfie Burden
Dylan Emery 4-1 Fergal O’Brien
Noppon Saengkham 4-1 Himanshu Jain
Andrew Higginson 4-2 Xing Zihao
Ali Carter 1-4 Elliot Slessor
Ben Mertens 4-0 Hammad Miah
Fan Zhengyi 4-2 Joe Perry
Aaron Hill 4-0 Anton Kazakov
Mark Selby 4-2 Yuan Sijun
Shaun Murphy 3-4 Barry Pinches
Daniel Wells 4-2 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Marco Fu 4-1 Stuart Bingham
Zak Surety 4-2 Mark Joyce
Kyren Wilson 4-3 Ashley Carty
Anthony Hamilton 4-0 Andres Petrov
Chris Wakelin 4-0 Jimmy Robertson
Martin O’Donnell 4-3 Ryan Thomerson
Ian Burns 4-2 Lukas Kleckers
Tom Ford 4-3 Ben Woollaston
Xiao Guodong 4-3 Ashley Hugill
Barry Hawkins 4-0 He Guoqiang
Wu Yize 4-1 Sydney Wilson
Graeme Dott 4-3 Pang Junxu
Joe O’Connor 4-3 Xu Si
Luca Brecel 4-3 Jiang Jun
Round of 64 (bo7)
Robert Milkins 4-1 Allan Taylor
David Gilbert 4-2 Oliver Lines
Jack Lisowski 4-2 Liam Pullen
Gary Wilson 4-2 Iulian Boiko
Long Zehuang 1-4 Anthony McGill
Sanderson Lam 3-4 Mark Williams
Matthew Stevens 3-4 Ricky Walden
Stuart Carrington 3-4 Neil Robertson
Mark Allen 4-0 Ma Hailong
Si Jiahui 4-2 Andrew Pagett
Ding Junhui 2-4 Robbie Williams
Adam Duffy 4-0 Jamie Clarke
David Lilley 2-4 Ryan Day
Tian Pengfei 1-4 John Higgins
Ross Muir 1-4 Matthew Selt
Liam Davies 1-4 Duane Jones
Alfie Davies 3-4 Dominic Dale
Jordan Brown 3-4 Stan Moody
Zhang Anda 1-4 Jak Jones
Hossein Vafaei 4-1 Julien Leclercq
Dylan Emery 4-2 Noppon Saengkham
Elliot Slessor w/o Andrew Higginson
Ben Mertens 2-4 Fan Zhengyi
Aaron Hill 4-2 Mark Selby
Barry Pinches 1-4 Daniel Wells
Marco Fu 4-3 Zak Surety
Kyren Wilson 1-4 Anthony Hamilton
Chris Wakelin 1-4 Martin O’Donnell
Ian Burns 2-4 Tom Ford
Xiao Guodong 3-4 Barry Hawkins
Wu Yize 2-4 Graeme Dott
Joe O’Connor 0-4 Luca Brecel
Round of 32 (bo7)
Robert Milkins 4-0 David Gilbert
Jack Lisowski 3-4 Gary Wilson
Anthony McGill 4-1 Mark Williams
Ricky Walden 4-2 Neil Robertson
Mark Allen 4-1 Si Jiahui
Robbie Williams 4-2 Adam Duffy
Ryan Day 1-4 John Higgins
Matthew Selt 4-1 Duane Jones
Dominic Dale 4-1 Stan Moody
Jak Jones 4-2 Hossein Vafaei
Dylan Emery 1-4 Elliot Slessor
Fan Zhengyi 4-1 Aaron Hill
Daniel Wells 2-4 Marco Fu
Anthony Hamilton 2-4 Martin O’Donnell
Tom Ford 4-1 Barry Hawkins
Graeme Dott 1-4 Luca Brecel
Round of 16 (bo7)
Robert Milkins 0-4 Gary Wilson
Anthony McGill 4-3 Ricky Walden
Mark Allen 4-0 Robbie Williams
John Higgins 4-3 Matthew Selt
Dominic Dale 4-0 Jak Jones
Elliot Slessor 4-3 Fan Zhengyi
Marco Fu 2-4 Martin O’Donnell
Tom Ford 1-4 Luca Brecel
Gary Wilson 5-0 Anthony McGill
Mark Allen 2-5 John Higgins
Dominic Dale 3-5 Elliot Slessor
Martin O’Donnell 5-3 Luca Brecel
Gary Wilson 6-4 John Higgins
Elliot Slessor 5-6 Martin O’Donnell
Gary Wilson 9-4 Martin O’Donnell
Featured photo credit: WST