Former world champion Neil Robertson is hoping to go beyond the quarter-finals of the williamhill.com UK Championship for the first time when he cues off today at the York Barbican.
The Australian has been in superb form in recent weeks, winning two events in the Players Tour Championship series and climbing to No 4 in the world rankings.
Robertson proved his capacity to rise to the big occasion by winning the world championship last year, but surprisingly he has yet to reach the semi-finals of snooker’s second biggest ranking event.
“I do have a poor record in the UK Championship but I don’t think there’s any reason for that other than coincidence,” said the Cambridge-based cueman.
“My form has been fantastic recently, I’ve been very consistent, won a couple of tournaments, and I’m really looking forward to going to York and trying to keep that going in one of our biggest events.”
The early-round matches at the tournament have been reduced from best-of-17 to best-of-11 frames, but Robertson does not believe his chances will be affected by the change.
“You have to adapt to whatever the format is,” said the 29-year-old.
“I do enjoy the best of 17s, but on the other hand at least with best-of-11 you know you’re playing for a result in one session rather then playing over two sessions.
“The new format means that every match is on a TV table, which is good for the players because some great matches have ended up on the outside tables in previous years.
“There’s no dividing wall between the two tables which is ideal for the fans because they can watch both matches.
“At the Welsh Open last year I was on the other table when Stephen Hendry was making a 147. You can lose focus when something like that is happening so you have to keep concentrating on your own match.”
Robertson starts his bid for the £100,000 top prize against Tom Ford this afternoon.
Tomorrow sees Leeds’s Peter Lines open up with a match against Martin Gould.
John Higgins, meanwhile, is backing Hendry to catapult up the world rankings once he comes to terms with life among snooker’s foot soldiers.
World champion Higgins – who opens his UK title defence against Rory McLeod today – admits it would have been a confusing scenario if his fellow Scot had failed to qualify for the event in York.
For the first time since he was a teenager, Hendry is having to battle through the preliminary stages of tournaments. The 42-year-old beat Northern Ireland’s Gerard Greene three weeks ago to secure a first-round meeting with another Scot Stephen Maguire. Higgins, for one, was relieved to see the seven-times world champion perform when it mattered.
“It wouldn’t seem right if you came to a top event and Stephen wasn’t playing at it,” said Higgins.
“But he’s made it through here and I really do think it could be the making of him.”
n The tournament at the York Barbican runs until December 11 and tickets are still on sale. For details call 0844 854 2757 or visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets.