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Roll with it: Neil Robertson on why Ronnie O’Sullivan's world title bid is supersonic

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Ronnie O'Sullivan is chasing a sixth world title.

Image credit: Eurosport

ByDesmond Kane
31/07/2020 at 19:34 | Updated 31/07/2020 at 22:49

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s hopes of a sixth world title have been given a huge boost by the tournament being moved behind closed doors, according to 2010 Crucible champion Neil Robertson.

The UK government has banned fans from attending snooker's biggest event until 15 August at the earliest due to concerns over a spike in Covid-19 infection rates with spectators not allowed to attend any pilot sports events for at least two weeks.

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World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn is sill holding out hope that the public could possibly be allowed access when the best-of-35 frames final is played over the weekend of Saturday 15 August and Sunday 16 August.

Australia's leading player Robertson is in no doubt that the news will be welcomed by five-times champion O’Sullivan, who said players were being treated like “lab rats” when WST announced the event would go ahead at a third of its capacity in the 981-seat arena in Sheffield.

With the event moved behind closed doors from Saturday onwards after fans were allowed into the Crucible on the opening day, Melburnian Robertson believes circumstances provide O’Sullivan with the best chance of winning a sixth world title since he lost the 2014 final 18-14 to Mark Selby.

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Comparing Oasis - who are ardent Manchester City fans - and Gallagher brothers lookalike O'Sullivan to City in the Premier League, diehard Chelsea fan Robertson believes the Essex player's world title bid is more than definitely maybe and said: “I think he would have preferred playing in front of no crowd.

“I would compare it to watching Manchester City and Liverpool play after the reset.

“If you take crowds away from football, Man City are clearly the best team and would win the Premier League every year.

“Liverpool thrive on a crowd. If you take the crowd away from Ronnie, he just plays. There is no pressure.

“it will be like him practising. He’s clearly the best player in terms of playing the game, and the way he plays. Nobody can dispute that.

“But then if you add in a crowd, you add in pressure and different things.

“Sometimes it can make you play great or not so well. He draws a huge amount of expectation from the crowd and the media so I think it will be a lot more relaxed for him this year than other years – that will suit him for sure."

Robertson starts and finishes against former English Open winner Liang Wenbo on Sunday – and is aware he has been handed a tough challenge to claim glory this year with a possible match against 2013 finalist Barry Hawkins in the second round and former winners Mark Selby or Shaun Murphy in the last eight before a potential semi-final against O'Sullivan.

“The bottom half is brutal," said Robertson. "On paper, one half looks incredibly more difficult than the other, but then as the matches pan out upsets can happen and draws can open up again so you never really know.

“I think you have to look at the first round match and overcome that first.

Reflecting on his recent form at the venue over the past decade, Robertson added: "You can never say this player should have won it three times or twice.

“What’s been surprising for me is not being to the semi-finals since 2014 (when he lost 17-15 to Selby).

“That’s the most surprising stat. I’ve been to the semi-finals three times in nine years. For someone like me who likes playing in longer distance matches, that’s probably the disappointing thing.

“I can’t make excuses any more. I’ve become a bit too casual over the longer distance matches. Safety being tight is going to be super important."

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