Neil Robertson believes that the unique Crucible atmosphere can still inspire him, despite the lack of crowd, as he reached the second round of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-5 win over Liang Wenbo .
World number two Robertson was pushed hard by his Chinese opponent for much of the contest, but grew stronger at the business end as he set up a meeting with Barry Hawkins or Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 16.
Surprisingly for a player of his calibre, Robertson has not reached the Crucible final since he won the title in 2010, and in fact has been knocked out in the first round four times in that period. This time the event is played behind closed doors, but Robertson still hopes to draw inspiration from his surroundings.
After an excellent season which has seen him lift trophies at the Champion of Champions, European Masters and Players Championship, he is in good enough form for a tilt at the title.
Liang won the opening frame today with a break of 82 to draw level at 5-5, only for Robertson to fire runs of 97 and 89 for 7-5. Frame 13 came down to the last red and Liang missed a tough pot to a top corner when leading 61-40, handing his opponent the chance to extend his lead to three frames at the interval.
That effectively ended Liang’s resistance, as Robertson was able to take the last two frames with a top run of 50 to complete the scoreline.
“Without a crowd it’s all about who plays the best snooker,” said Australia’s 38-year-old Robertson. “But the Crucible still creates a different atmosphere, you are still walking down the stairs, the seats and the dividing wall are still there, the lights are coming down. So it still feels great being out there, it’s just unfortunate that there’s no crowd. The applause when a player makes a century or wins a frame is a nice touch.
“When the draw came out I was hoping to get one of the debutants because they are not used to the Crucible. So to get Liang was up there with the toughest draws. He made an unbelievable break to go 5-5 and I was wondering how I was going to shake him off. I missed a couple then he started to get nervy and miss a few which helped me out. I pinched really important frames at key moments, especially the one to go 8-5 ahead.
“It’s disappointing that I haven’t been back to the final since 2010. I have won so many big tournaments since over a long distance. It is something I have to address, I spoke to Joe Perry about it. Look at John Higgins, he has sessions which he should lose 6-2 and he gets out of them 4-4, while I’ve had 4-4 sessions which I should have won 6-2. Tightening up my safety a bit and making sure I am playing the right shot all the time will make a difference. I have worked a lot on my fitness and I felt fantastic tonight. I wish I had done that a few years ago.”