NEIL ROBERTSON has lost five times in six meetings with Peter Ebdon but he isn’t the only player who has a hard time against one of snooker’s most durable campaigners.
Ebdon turned professional in 1991 and though he isn’t the force he was when he won the UK Championship title in 2006, he remains an obstinate presence in any draw, with a big match temperament to counter more fluent, free flowing players.
Ebdon has been a vegan for a couple of years. Robertson, following a long conversation with the 2002 world champion, has followed suit. The Aussie says he has lost weight, although he was hardly obese to begin with.
Still, healthy body, healthy mind and all that. Sometimes making a change in lifestyle can reap rewards because it puts the individual in a positive frame of mind, having given them a target to aim for and something to believe in.
Ten years ago Ebdon was a leading advocate of the Atkins Diet, of which you hear little about these days. That seemed to involve plenty of meat but, of course, vegans don’t eat any.
One thing true about Ebdon is that he has kept himself physically fit. Few players have made as much as an effort off the table, never mind in the arena. Because of what this takes out of him, he tends to come good now once every few years. His last great performance in a ranking event was a run to the semi-finals of the 2012 International Championship. Two years on, maybe this could be his time again.
Robertson is a proud Australian and his native country love their sport. It was a nice gesture from him to take a cricket bat into the arena for his match with Kyren Wilson in memory of Philip Hughes, who so tragically lost his life last week.
Robertson has an innate toughness, so he and Ebdon are evenly matched. But if Ebdon can dictate the style of match then he has every reason to feel confident of another win against the defending UK champion.
Ronnie O’Sullivan seems to be in a generally bad mood, the root of which is surely his ankle injury. After beating Peter Lines, he made a rare (for him) series of criticisms about the venue, format and referee. But he’s still in York and still favourite to beat Ben Woollaston and reach the last 16 today.
Some of O’Sullivan’s complaints were valid. There is a danger at the moment of valuing quantity over quality – when it should be the other way round.
But there is also frustration that his foot injury – which he feels was self-inflicted – has torpedoed his chances of a fifth UK title.
The bookmakers disagree: O'Sullivan is still favourite to triumph on Sunday.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.