Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Like a bull in a China shop

Neil Robertson just cannot get his game together in China.

The formidable Aussie is widely regarded as the main man to beat in the game this season but he was denied a quick start out of the blocks by Scotland's Jamie Burnett, who beat him 5-1 in the first round of the Wuxi Classic.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Defeat here is hardly terminal for the 2010 world champion, but it does bring his poor record in China to attention once more.

In his 13 ranking event visits to China since 2007, at the China Open, Shanghai Masters, World Open and now the Wuxi Classic, he's managed just one quarter-final and one semi-final; a disappointing return for a player of his great talent and who has enjoyed such success elsewhere.

In the same spell, six-time ranking event winner Robertson has lost five times in the first round and openly admits he struggles to produce his best when he touches down in snooker's most promising new nation.

It's difficult to judge exactly why Neil's performances are so pale in comparison to his success elsewhere, but I'd guess his preparations could be where the problem lies.

Robertson has had plenty of pre-tournament faux pas during his professional career and isn't renowned for his efficiency in the build-up to tournaments. Perhaps the combination of trying to get this right along with the effects of travel and different conditions at the venues is something that effects his game.

This, of course, is only a presumption. It could be that his poor form in China is simply playing on his mind.

But Robertson need not worry too much. He'll be keen to rectify his record here sooner rather than later as he strives to become one of the greats over the next few season but, by the same token, he's such a good player that I'd expect his bad fortune to turn. As for this season, it is still yet young and plenty of time remains for him to show us exactly what he's made of.

The Aussie wasn't the only one to stall today at the Wuxi Classic. Ding Junhui lost 5-2 to Mark Davis as the pressure of playing in front of his home crowd seemed to tell again.

The China star has often flattered to deceive in front of his own and there was arguably greater pressure on him today, as he's actually from Wuxi. This tournament was originally created because of him back in 2007. He's performed well at this particular tournament in previous years but may just have wanted it that little bit more now it's become a fully-fledged ranking event.

Ding will have plenty of other opportunities to wow his natives though, with another four major ranking events sceheduled for China this season.

Inconsistency has long plagued Ding though and his form in China could merely be down to his patchy form in general instead of pressure. Either way, he needs results anywhere this season with his place in the top 16 starting to come under pressure.

Among the other first round casualties was World Championship finalist Ali Carter. He lost 5-3 to Fergal O'Brien and will be disappointed not to kick on from his Crucible success.

The problem the Captain faces now is trying to get himself up for every tournament just as he did for the big one. That isn't easy.

Michael White endured ranking event heartache too. He lost 5-4 to 14-year-old Zhou Yuelong in the wildcard round as his debut ranking event appearance came grinding to an early halt. This is a cruel way for things to end for Michael after he fought so hard to get here in the first place. This again highlights why so many people are so staunchly against the wildcard rounds, but he shouldn't dwell on it too much.

I've had the pleasure of watching this young Welshman play on several occasions and he's impressed each and every time. He's a fine player who will be a force once he finds his feet and adapts to life on the bigger ranking event stages.

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