Neil Robertson expects a "fired up" Ronnie O'Sullivan to recover strongly from his ranking final misery when he defends the world title at the Crucible next month.
The six-times defending champion has suffered five defeats in ranking finals so far this season, culminating in a 10-4 loss to UK champion Robertson – who won six straight frames from 4-4 in a match that saw him contribute an astonishing five centuries and eight breaks over 50 – before the 45th staging of the World Championship in Sheffield.
Despite lifting the £150,000 first prize with an immaculate display of potting and break-building that left O'Sullivan saying "I’ve never seen anyone play as well as that", Robertson has predicted a Rocket backlash at the Crucible, the scene of his 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in last year's final.
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With around 300 fans expected to be allowed access to the intimate 980-capacity venue under the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Robertson believes the dynamics will suit the world number two as he bids to equal Stephen Hendry's modern day record of seven titles.
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"The crowd add something different. Maybe not with me, (John) Higgins, Judd (Trump) and Mark (Selby). We're very experienced so we are kind of exempt from that and know how to deal with that," said Australia's leading player.
It's just one of those things. It is only going to motivate Ronnie more in the World Championship. He's going to be harder to beat than in any other year because he's going to be going there so determined.
"He may not say it, but that's going to really annoy him and really fire him up. I feel sorry for whoever he plays in the first couple of rounds because he's going to be up for it, that's for sure."
Robertson refuses to believe he is the man to beat in Sheffield despite his impeccable level of form that saw him defeat Jack Lisowski (10-5) and Selby (10-3) on his run to victory at the elite eight-man Tour event.
Robertson's win over O'Sullivan means he will be seeded three in the same half of the draw as world number one and 11/4 favourite Trump.
"If I play the tournament on my terms, I've got a fantastic chance," said the 2010 world champion, who lost 13-7 to Selby in an exacting quarter-final last year.
"But if I allow people to make the balls scrappy and play 45-minute frames then it is going to play to my disadvantage.
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I need to play on my terms and play the way I practise. I know I can sustain the highest level of snooker possible for multiple sessions.
"I just need to play the game I play and don't worry about anyone else.
"Somebody is going to have to play their absolute best to beat me so it is a nice position to be in."
Ronnie O'Sulllivan ranking finals 2020/21
- Northern Ireland Open: Judd Trump (lost 9-7)
- Scottish Open: Mark Selby (lost 9-3)
- Welsh Open: Jordan Brown (lost 9-8)
- Players Championship: John Higgins (lost 10-3)
- Tour Championship: Neil Robertson (lost 10-4)
Crucible first round draw
- Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Qualifier
- Anthony McGill (16) v Qualifier
- Ding Junhui (9) v Qualifier
- Stephen Maguire (8) v Qualifier
- John Higgins (5) v Qualifier
- Mark Williams (12) v Qualifier
- Mark Allen (13) v Qualifier
- Mark Selby (4) v Qualifier
- Neil Robertson (3) v Qualifier
- Jack Lisowski (14) v Qualifier
- Barry Hawkins (11) v Qualifier
- Kyren Wilson (6) v Qualifier
- Shaun Murphy (7) v Qualifier
- Yan Bingtao (10) v Qualifier
- David Gilbert (15) v Qualifier
- Judd Trump (2) v Qualifier
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