Last season we compared Neil Robertson to Sir Don Bradman as he edged towards a century of centuries (Bradman having been denied a 100 average by being bowled for a duck in his last ever match). Now a comparison with Andy Murray seems more apt for Robertson as he attempts to win his home crown.
Like Murray, Robertson is world class but the only player from his country in his chosen sport who is. Murray experienced years of pressure and expectation before triumphing at Wimbledon last year. Robertson would dearly love to do the same in his native land, though the World Championship, Masters and UK Championship are of course more prestigious events.
Unlike Murray, though, Robertson does not receive huge media coverage in his own country. Snooker is not a major sport in Australia, even though there are many enthusiasts there. It’s a shame because he is a sportsman of whom they would be proud: dedicated, talented and with an iron will to win.
That’s why the Goldfields Open is an annual highlight for him. For once, he gets to showcase his talents in front of his fellow Australians.
He was understandably tired after winning the Wuxi Classic and it showed during his first round match in Bendigo against Andrew Higginson. It’s fair to assume he had a good night’s sleep afterwards because today he was about as good as it gets in whitewashing Jamie Jones 5-0.
Robertson had two centuries, including the tournament’s highest, 140, and could have had two more. He also made an excellent clearance in the fourth frame, doubling the last pink.
Murray has been part of a big four in men’s tennis. The big four in snooker is currently Robertson, Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui. The latter three all stayed away from Bendigo but there was never any chance of Robertson missing out.
In the groove, in the zone and absolutely determined to secure what would be a very special title, the 32 year-old is the man to beat as he aims to make a great start to the new season even better.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.