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Robertson ‘Ultra-Motivated’ To Keep Streak Going

Neil Robertson has captured titles in every calendar year going back to 2006, and must win one of the next three tournaments to keep that sequence going. He made an ideal start to the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open with a 4-1 defeat of Wu Yize.

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Since winning the 2006 Grand Prix, Robertson has lifted at least one trophy for 17 years in a row, the longest ongoing streak of any player. But given that the world number six has decided not to enter tournaments in December this year, in order to take a Christmas break in his native Australia, he will have to win either this week’s tournament in Belfast, the International Championship in China or the UK Championship in York to keep the run going.

So far, this season has been a struggle for the 41-year-old; he is yet to reach the last 32 of a ranking event. But top breaks of 69 and 70 helped him to beat China’s Wu and set up a last-64 clash with local favourite Jordan Brown.

“I love records, keeping them going or achieving them,” said Robertson. “I am very proud of this one so the motivation is ultra high. I have only got a few attempts left to try to win a title but everything is good, I have been practising really hard and hitting the ball so well. If I can win this week I’d also become the first player to win all four Home Nations events so that’s another one to spur me on.”

Asked about his decision to skip tournaments in order to spend Christmas Down Under, he added: “I decided to bite the bullet, it’s more important for me to get back home for the first time in four years. There are things I miss, like close friends and family who are getting older. My nephews don’t really know me, apart from through Facetime and videos. It will be fun, (son) Alexander will be on a surf board and on the beach. And I’ll be back for the Masters, feeling refreshed.

“As an overseas player it’s always hard to decide when to go home, especially when Australia is so far away. After I had a great season in 2021/22 I should have gone back for a few weeks at that point. It’s probably something I need to schedule better in the future.”

BetVictor English Open and Wuhan Open champion Judd Trump is looking to win three consecutive ranking titles, a feat previously achieved by only four players,  and he started strongly with a 4-1 defeat of Jenson Kendrick.

World number 108 Kendrick admitted last week that Trump was his idol and it was a dream for him just to compete with the 25-time ranking event winner, and the Stoke cueman had a moment to savour with a 90 clearance to take the opening frame. But Trump then took control, winning four in a row with a top run of 96.

“I felt a bit rusty because I had not played for six days,” said Trump. “This arena is one of the best three or four on the circuit and the atmosphere heats up as you go through the week, so I want to be around for that.”

Robbie McGuigan, an up-and-coming 19-year-old from nearby Antrim, took advantage of his wild card invitation to this event at the Waterfront Hall by beating Muhammad Asif 4-1 with top breaks of 56, 91 and 58.

“It felt amazing, I could see everyone I knew in the crowd so to play well in front of them was fantastic,” said McGuigan. “I think the crowd got to my opponent a bit and I had to take advantage of that. It was great to be able to fist pump in front of them at the end.

“I have made some changes to my mental approach, I am reading books which help me to stay calm off the table, and I have spoken to a few players about it. I am more relaxed now on the table, if I am playing badly or losing I try to enjoy the challenge.”

Jack Lisowski top scored with 112 in a 4-1 defeat of Rebecca Kenna while Cazoo British Open champion Mark Williams made a 140 total clearance as he beat Tian Pengfei by the same scoreline. Sam Craigie made a 67 in the decider to edge out Kyren Wilson 4-3.

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