/ Snooker

Australia ready to greet world champion Robertson

Updated: Sunday, 17 Jul 2011 12:41

Neil Robertson
Neil Robertson

Australia reacted with surprise to news of Melbourne's Neil Robertson winning a world title but tomorrow sees the knock-on effect as big-time snooker return to the country for the first time since the 1970s.

Robertson was barely known in his homeland until he triumphed at the Crucible in May 2010.

Yet success in Sheffield saw his profile soar, with Australia never reluctant to embrace a home-grown world champion.

The very existence of the Australian Goldfields Open, a ranking event which takes place in the city of Bendigo, some 90 miles from Melbourne, can be attributed to Robertson's triumph over Scotland's Graeme Dott.

Dott has not travelled Down Under, citing a neck injury he sustained in China earlier in the month, and Ronnie O'Sullivan turned back for London after complaining of neck and back problems once he reached Bangkok.

But Robertson and the rest of the sport's biggest names are due in the city, several travelling in at the last minute after competing in Bangkok at the World Cup.

Robertson and amateur partner Steve Mifsud - Australia's number two - reached the quarter-finals at the World Cup, where countries were represented by two-man teams.

Mifsud and brother James have both been granted wild cards to their home tournament, but much of the attention will be centred on Robertson.

The 28-year-old, who lives in Cambridge during the snooker season, begins his campaign against England's Nigel Bond on Tuesday, when reigning Crucible champion John Higgins also starts against Matthew Selt.

Judd Trump, runner-up to John Higgins at this year's World Championship, said: ‘It's the first event we've had in Australia so it will be new to everyone. No one will know what to expect but it's great for snooker to become more of a global game.

‘If Neil Robertson hadn't won the world title last year we'd never have been going there.

‘It's up to us now to help make snooker more popular there and I'm looking forward to showing the fans what I can do.’

Australia staged the 1971 and 1975 World Championships, when Eddie Charlton was the country's leading player. Charlton reached the semi-finals in 1971 and was runner-up four years later, but could not achieve what Robertson managed many years later in going on to secure a world title.

World Snooker chief Barry Hearn sees the Australian tournament as another step towards the globalisation of the sport, with the calendar for this season showing major events in Thailand, Brazil, Germany and China.

‘It's nice to travel around the world,’ said Wales' two-time world champion Mark Williams.

‘We used to do it a lot a few years ago and it's happening again now. It's not just a UK sport, it's a worldwide one.

‘The standard of snooker has improved over the last year and the number of tournaments has gone up.’