Robertson makes fine world snooker start

·2-min read

Australia's Neil Robertson has made an impressive start in his bid to regain the world snooker championship title on a moving afternoon at the Crucible Theatre.

Spectators, returning to the famous Sheffield venue on Saturday, watched the man from Melbourne open up a 6-3 lead over tough opening round opponent Liang Wenbo.

Robertson's match in the afternoon was halted just before 3pm as the players, spectators and officials all observed a minute's silence to pay tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh.

As one of the UK government's pilot events to help the country out of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, reigning world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan was the immediate star attraction as he opened his defence with a 10-4 first-round victory over Mark Joyce.

Six-time champion O'Sullivan started scrappily in the morning but in the evening session was at his most imperious, reeling off three straight century breaks (124, 137 and 112) - only the eighth time the feat's been achieved at the championships - to close out the match.

But Robertson, who hammered O'Sullivan in last month's Tour Championship final with a performance that the Englishman said was the best he'd ever seen, also showed why he's being widely tipped to lift his second world crown 11 years after his first.

It took no time for the 39-year-old to move smoothly into gear against his top-quality Chinese opponent, fellow southpaw Liang, as he opened with breaks of 79 and 59 to establish a 2-0 lead.

Robertson, the British bookmakers' second favourite behind Judd Trump to win the tournament, then made a superb 108 clearance - his 63rd century break of the season and his 64th in his 17 years at the Crucible - in the fourth frame.

A huge miss on the blue from Liang in the seventh proved a frame-loser and saw the match swing decisively 5-2 in Robertson's favour but the Chinese, who lost the UK Championship final to the Australian in 2015, hit back in the final frame.

Liang's 126 break in that ninth frame was a warning for Robertson of the hard work that still lay ahead for him in Sunday evening's second and final session.