Neil Robertson became the latest high profile casualty in the first round of the Betfred World Championship as he lost 10-6 to Michael Holt.
World number four Robertson was fancied by many for the Crucible crown but he joins the likes of Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy on the road out of Sheffield. It’s the first time since 1982 that three of the top four seeds have been knocked out in the opening round.
Australia’s Robertson won the Champion of Champions and UK Championship before Christmas and reached the Welsh Open final in February, but suffered early exits in the last two ranking events before Sheffield and has now seen his challenge for a second world crown come to a premature end.
Holt can enjoy one of the best results – and performances – of his career as he becomes the fifth qualifier out of 11 completed matches so far to reach the second round. The world number 28 from Nottingham is through to the last 16 at the Crucible for only the second time in his career, and first since 2005, and he now faces Mark Williams.
Holt led 6-3 after the first session and took the opening frame tonight with a 79 clearance after Robertson missed a long blue on 44. The next came down to the last red and a thumping long pot from Robertson allowed him to close to 7-4.
In frame 12, Holt’s attempt to clear from 44-0 down ended when he missed the final green on 45. But he got another chance thanks to a poor safety from his opponent and he cleared the table to go four frames ahead. Both players had chances in the 13th and an excellent long pot on the last red from Holt set him up to go 9-4 in front at the interval.
Breaks of 79 and 54 from Robertson raised his hopes of a fight-back as he narrowed the gap to 9-6. And he had an early chance in the next, but when he missed a red to centre at 23-6 it proved his last shot as Holt compiled a fine run of 65.
“I’m really pleased, I’m happy with myself that I’ve played one of the best players and stood up and had a good game,” said 37-year-old Holt, who lost to Steve Davis when he reached the second round here in 2005.
“I ran my luck at times, I’ll be honest, but you need that. I’m really happy with my composure. I knew if I felt comfortable out there I could beat anyone, I’ve said that for years, I wasn’t fibbing, so to be comfortable out there was great for me.
“I felt a few nerves in the end. His cue action is dynamite so it was guaranteed that he’d stage a comeback at some point. I just had to prepare myself for that, I had to focus on me, and when I got my chance I took it.
“I’ve been working on everything with Terry (Griffiths), a bit of technique, and the mindset. He’s a big help, he knows everything, he’s been out there and won the big one, he can say the right thing at the right time.
“I can’t wait for the next match now. I get on well with Mark and I‘m sure there will be some texts flying around.”
Robertson said: “I’m very disappointed to go out. Michael started the match off really well, going 3-0 in front. I had a fantastic response to get to 3-3 and a lot of other players would have crumbled from then on.
“He played a great match, and nothing really went right for me today, that was obvious. He held himself together really well, I put him under a bit of pressure in the last few frames. He should take a lot of confidence from that.
“My season has been fantastic, this is probably my best season to date, I played great in the Masters and the Welsh Open, but snooker is a funny game. I’ll have to lick my wounds for a week or two, then get ready for next season.”
Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins took a 6-3 lead over China’s Zhang Anda. The first six frame were shared, China’s Zhang making the better breaks with 83, 91 and 93. Hawkins, who has reached at least the semi-finals in the last three consecutive years, won the last three frames with a top run of 66.