Snooker: More than UK title at stake for Robertson

Neil Robertson.

Neil Robertson.

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Neil Robertson opens the defence of his UK title in York today looking to become the first player to defend his crown in almost 20 years.

Snooker legend Stephen Hendry was the last player to win back-to-back UK crowns back in 1995 and 1996.

Robertson edged out Mark Selby 10-7 12 months ago in an enthralling final, but takes his first steps to retain the trophy today against rookie Joe O’Connor.

“I was unaware of that record,” said Robertson when asked about emulating Hendry’s feat.

“I have a good record in the UK Championship, I really enjoy the event.

“Especially at the Barbican, all the players were happy when it moved back here. It’s a fantastic venue, really good crowds.

“To come back as defending champion, and try to match what Stephen Hendry did 20 years ago, just fuels my ambition to try and achieve that.”

The Australian at the Barbican last year completed the rare ‘triple crown’ sweep of winning the World Championship, Masters and UK Championship.

Robertson joined an elite group of just nine players to have achieved such a feat, the others being Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Steve Davis, Mark Williams, Alex Higgins, Terry Griffiths and Mark Selby.

“Winning the triple crown was the proudest moment of my career,” said Robertson.

“To be the first non-British player, to break that sort of dominance of the major titles, it was the proudest moment of my career.

“I have won one of each. The next target for me is to try and win multiple major titles.

“I love the history of the game, researching the stats. To already be amongst that group – of winning the three majors – is very special already.

“Also, being the first player to get a century of centuries was a huge milestone. People always remember the first player to achieve certain records.

“To be the first was a great achievement for me.”

Robertson has had a mixed start to the season, winning the Wuxi Classic while also reaching the final of the Australian Open.

But he has also suffered surprise exits in the early rounds of the Shanghai Masters and International Championship.

“I would have taken the start I have had at the start of the season, I am very happy with my game,” said Robertson.

He plays Leicestershire teenager O’Connor this evening – “I have never seen him play, I’m not too sure what he looks like,” admitted Robertson – and is adamant he will hit the ground running.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said.

“In some ways, a player who I don’t know ensures I am on the ball straightaway. I will make sure I am in tip-top shape for that one.

“A couple of tournaments I took my foot off the gas, let my opponents back in, and got duly punished for it as I ended up losing two deciders. I don’t want to be making the same mistake in York.”

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