Neil Robertson started the BetVictor Welsh Open strongly with a 4-1 victory over Andrew Higginson, boosting his hopes of qualifying for next week’s Players Championship.
The Australian remains 18th on the one-year ranking list and will need to win at least one more match to get into the top 16 and earn a place in Wolverhampton, where he won the title last year. But Robertson insists his only target is to go all the way to the £80,000 top prize and Ray Reardon Trophy this week at Venue Cymru.
“I’m here to win the tournament, I wouldn’t be happy just to get through whatever round it is to get into the Players Championship,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for – to try to win the event. I have a lot of happy memories here and I love the town – it always seems to be sunny in Llandudno! I want to be here as long as possible.”
In a repeat of the 2007 Welsh Open final, Robertson started strongly today, making a break of 129 to go 2-0 ahead. Higginson pulled one back and led 52-7 in frame four, but Robertson took it with a 54 clearance and then won frame five on the colours to set up a last-64 tie with Dominic Dale.
He added: “It was a really tough first round draw because whenever I have played him in the past he has been in the top 20 or 30 in the world and he has beaten me a couple of times – that’s the Andrew Higginson I know. I made a good clearance to go 3-1 up and got a bit lucky in the last frame. The scoreline doesn’t reflect how close it was. Dominic will be another tough game, he seems to play well against the top players.”
World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-0 success against Oliver Lines with top breaks of 51, 58 and 91 and now meets Ross Muir on Tuesday afternoon.
Mark Williams, who was the last Welsh winner of this event back in 1999, impressed in a 4-2 win over Michael White. From 2-0 down, Williams made tremendous clearances of 70 and 76 to draw level at 2-2, then got the better of two scrappier frames to earn a meeting with Jak Jones.
“Michael was cruising at 2-0, then he missed an easy red on 62 in the third frame. I made two good clearances because I could easily have lost 4-0,” said Masters runner-up Williams. “If I need a clearance under pressure I can pull it out. I think Michael will be kicking himself because that was a golden opportunity to beat me. The venue here is great, it was full this afternoon and it will be full tonight.”
Joe Perry made a successful start to the defence of his title, beating Mark King 4-1 with a top break of 62. He said: “I didn’t know how I would feel as defending champion because I haven’t experienced it that many times. So to get off to a perfect start was nice. I settled pretty fast and that helped me to relax and get on with the job. I’ve got a few friends here with me. This is one of my favourites venues on the tour so in between matches I can get out into the town and enjoy the sights.”
Jackson Page made a 131 in a 4-1 defeat of Stuart Bingham while David Gilbert beat Marco Fu 4-2 with runs of 87, 60, 87, 77, 58 and 113. Shaun Murphy made a 134 in a 4-0 win over Victor Sarkis, while John Higgins top scored with 135 as he white-washed Alexander Ursenbacher.