NEW world No1 Neil Robertson will try and celebrate regaining top spot from Mark Selby with a first victory on home soil at the Australian Open on Sunday against Judd Trump.
It is yet another showpiece final to savour after both players showed fine form in coming through their respective semi-finals in Bendigo.
Robertson eased past Mark Davis 6-2, while Trump knocked in two centuries as well as a break of 94 and could have run even more riot against China’s Xiao Guodong before winning 6-3.
The Australian will go into the best-of-17 frame match as favourite – but not by much, and there are big wins in major tournaments either way, even if Robertson has had slightly the better of it recently.
The 32-year-old will attempt to make it back to back ranking titles, after the season-opening Wuxi Classic, fortified by a 13-11 world championship quarter-final win over Trump in the spring.
He also beat Trump in the 2012 Masters, but that came after significant victories for Trump at the Crucible, the UK Championship and the International Championship.
Robertson is chasing an 11th ranking title, and Trump a fourth and first since that Chengdu success 20 months ago.
But the 24-year-old has been playing well and scoring heavily this past week and indeed for much of the last seven months, and he has been knocking on the door.
Trump, making his first appearance at the event for three years, will certainly be fired up by the prospect of lifting a trophy, having watched his opponent and Ding Junhui do just that so often in the recent past.
He said: “It is Neil’s home tournament and it will be brilliant to play him here, I’m sure it will be a cracking atmosphere.
“And I quite like it when the crowd get involved. It will spur Neil on with the home support, but it will make me try harder as well.
“It has been great being back here after three years, nice to get to the final and it would be an incredible achievement for me to win the title.
“I won’t have a game plan for him, I will play my game and just try and pot as many long ones as possible. We have had a lot of good matches down the years.
“He is a very tough opponent and doesn’t give you much, so you you have to score heavily from your chances.
“I started very well, and we both had a lot of chances. I had a couple of centuries but probably should have had one in every frame.
“The standard is so high nowadays it is a big deal just getting to a final in itself.”
Robertson said: “It is tough trying to win back to back titles, but I hope I have something left in the tank for the final against Judd.
“I knew there was a slim chance of getting back to No1, and it is a great feeling to do it in Australia for the fans.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos