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  • Rikki Lambert

Can the Melbourne Machine snare snooker glory again?

Australian Neil Robertson is viewed as a leading contender to win a second World Snooker Championship title following an impressive campaign.

Robertson beat reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Tour Championship final - and will take on Liang Wenbo.

Neil Robertson spoke with Clayton on the Arvo Flow recently about his tilt at the world title, which you can listen to on the Flow Sports podcast player below. The article continues further below.

Ronnie O'Sullivan will open the defence of his World Snooker Championship title against debutant Mark Joyce at the Crucible in Sheffield, England.

The 2021 tournament begins on Saturday and will see fans return to the Crucible as part of the Government pilot programme following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England.

Organisers hope to be able to have a capacity crowd attend the final, which is set for the last two days, with the winner on May 3 in line for a £500,000 ($A900,000) top prize.

Australian snooker ace Neil Robertson is happy to let his rivals worry about his sparkling form as he targets a second world championship crown.

Since he lifted the sport's biggest prize at the Crucible in 2010, the 39-year-old from Melbourne, one of the sport's most celebrated overseas performers, has only reached the semi-finals once.

Away from Sheffield, though, Robertson has continued to collect plenty of silverware, with 20 career ranking titles to his name.

And last month's emphatic 10-4 defeat of Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Tour Championship final has again seen him touted as a leading contender to secure another world crown.

Robertson opens his account on Saturday, and told AAP:

"The way I have been playing this season, I am not really too worried about who I am playing.
"If you ask Liang, he probably won't be too happy about the draw, whereas I am not really too fussed on who I am playing. It is about how I approach the game.
"If I play well, I think I will win. It will be a tough game, but hopefully I will have too much (for him).
"I have just got to concentrate on people being worried about what I can bring to the match, rather than stopping other people from playing. I have just got to go out to attack as well as I can."

Robertson, who has not returned to Australia for 20 months because of the pandemic, said his preparation was deliberately risk-averse:

"I am going to have a policy this year of where I am not stopping for socially-distanced selfies or signing anything.
"You just can't afford to do that on the ridiculous chance of catching it. It would be pretty disastrous."

Despite the easing of restrictions allowing haircuts again, the hirsute Robertson has not yet opted for a trip to the barbers as his barnet has reverted to its curly natural state.

"The owner of my snooker club said I can't get it cut. He said, 'you will lose all of your power if you get your hair cut - like Samson'.
"It is more like a lion's mane now, so if I get my hair cut and get beat, then everyone will blame it on the haircut!"

Veteran Joyce, 37, turned professional in 2006, but had never previously made it through to the showpiece tournament, securing his place with victory over Brazil's Igor Figueiredo in the last qualifying round.

Elsewhere in Thursday's draw, former champion Stuart Bingham, another who came through qualifying, will meet China's Ding Junhui, while world No.1 Judd Trump plays Liam Highfield.

-- with AAP


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