Neil Robertson has vowed to take nothing for granted after underscoring his status as one of the favourites for this year’s World Snooker Championship by brushing aside Liang Wenbo at the Crucible. Two further centuries and a final flourish of 73 helped the in-form 39-year-old convert a 6-3 overnight advantage into a routine 10-3 win over the former UK Championship finalist.
It is far from the first time Robertson has been hailed as a champion-elect in the early stages of the Crucible, with Shaun Murphy famously calling to “get the engravers ready” after being thumped by the Australian in the 2019 second round.
Robertson said: “At some point you have to cope with becoming the favourite in an event – I’ve always been able to deal with it and it is the really big guns who cope with it the best. Over the last seven or eight years, in five of those years I’ve blitzed my opponents and everyone is saying: ‘His name’s on the trophy,’ already.
“When you run into opponents who make it incredibly tough for you, the onus has to be on you to make it an aggressive game, just to play the matches on my terms and not be worried by the other guy profiting off any mistakes.”
Jamie Jones reeled off five frames in succession to sink the eighth seed, Stephen Maguire, 10-4 and move into the second round just three years after dropping off the tour in the wake of a one-year suspension. Jones had recovered from a 3-0 deficit to fashion a 5-4 advantage overnight, and capitalised with three half-centuries to complete his victory.
Jones, who reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2012, said: “This venue holds no fear for me – I’ve seen a few qualifiers come here and collapse, and I never have.
“It can get to you because it’s a really pressurised environment but I seem to cope very well with it. These are the days and nights I played for as a kid, and I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”
The former semi-finalist David Gilbert completed a 10-4 win over qualifier Chris Wakelin, compiling an impressive three centuries and five further 50-plus breaks in the process. Gilbert resumed 7-2 ahead of his close friend after a glittering first-day display, and while Wakelin dug in to reduce the deficit with two half-centuries of his own, the favourite rounded off his win with a break of 84 to set up a potential second-round clash with Judd Trump.
The four-times champion John Higgins faces a battle to stay in the tournament as he trails China’s world No 53, Tian Pengfei, 4-3 after a below-par opening session. Things could have been worse for Higgins – who trailed 4-1 before clawing back the deficit – but play was so slow the session was curtailed two frames early.
Successive century breaks from Yan Bingtao helped him ease past Martin Gould in the morning session. Resuming at 4-4, the reigning Masters champion dominated proceedings and breaks of 130 and 116 in frames 11 and 12 put him on the road to a 10-6 victory.
Anthony McGill held a slender 5-4 advantage after the first session of his match with Ricky Walden.Walden posted successive centuries in a run of three frames in a row to go 3-2 in front before McGill hit back, scoring 119 and then an 88.