Neil Robertson will be aiming to restore pride in Australian snooker when he takes centre stage on the opening day of the Welsh Open in Newport tonight.
The Melbourne left-hander tackles Leicester’s Mark Selby in the first round of the fourth of this season’s six world ranking events.
Robertson, who stands 10th in the provisional rankings, is now the only Australian player on the circuit following Quinten Hann’s resignation earlier this month only days before he was found guilty of agreeing to fix matches for money.
Hann was suspended from playing in tournaments promoted by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association for eight years and ordered to pay £10,000 (€14,600) in legal costs.
Now, 24-year-old Robertson is aiming to do his country proud by completing his first title triumph at Newport, where he reached the quarter-finals last year.
The rising star has already beaten Shaun Murphy, the world champion, twice this season and has victories over John Higgins, Mark Williams and Jimmy White under his belt.
“I am playing as well as I have ever played in practice and I am really looking forward to the tournament,” Robertson said.
“I have been working hard on the positional side of my break-building game and it is going very well.
“My target for the season is to get into the top eight and I am not far off that. There are still a few tournaments to go and I have got a great chance. It is a good venue at Newport and I got a lot of support there last year so hopefully I can get a run going next week.”
Meanwhile, Judd Trump of Bristol will create snooker history by becoming the youngest qualifier to compete in the final stages of a ranking tournament when he faces Gloucester’s Robert Milkins tonight.
Trump is just 16 years and six months old, which makes him younger than Ronnie O’Sullivan or Stephen Hendry when they qualified for tournaments in their debut seasons.
The talented teenager secured victories over three experienced players – Rod Lawler, Lee Walker and Adrian Gunnell – at Prestatyn last month to make it through to Newport.
“I am happy and relieved to have got through,” Trump said. “The standard is so high on the main tour and it has taken me a while to get used to it but I have worked hard on my safety game and that has helped me to get the results.”
Home interest on the opening night comes in the form of Cardiff’s Dominic Dale, a semi-finalist at the Malta Cup earlier this month, who meets Nottingham’s Michael Holt for a second round place.
The elite top 16 enter the fray tomorrow, with world number one O’Sullivan aiming to become the first player to win the Welsh crown three years in succession following 9-8 victories over Steve Davis and Hendry in 2004 and 2005 respectively.