Phil Haigh ✍️
Neil Robertson has often suggested that his underwhelming World Snooker Championship record is down to the cramped nature of the Crucible, but his good friend Joe Perry reckons that is ‘absolute rubbish’ and it is actually down to a mental block.
The 40-year-old has been crowned world champion once before, lifting the trophy in Sheffield in 2010, but despite being consistently one of the finest players on the planet since then he has been to just one semi-final at the Crucible.
It is one of the great mysteries of the modern game that Robertson, who has racked up title on the circuit with incredible regularity, has not done better at the sport’s biggest event, but he has offered a reason why.
The tall Australian feels that the famously tight Crucible is just too small for him to conduct his pre-shot routine, which involves walking into the shot from a couple of steps back.
Speaking at last year’s tournament after quarter-final defeat to Kyren Wilson, he said: ‘I don’t like the venue, from a technical point of view it’s very difficult for me to walk into my shot properly, it’s actually almost impossible to do.
‘I know other players do struggle with it. To get to the one-table set-up I need to negotiate that and it’s something that I have to work on.
‘Whether it’s change my technique slightly so I’m not always backing into those walls.’
Perry, who has long been a friend, practice partner and was something of a mentor to Robertson when he arrived in the UK to embark on a professional career, does not agree with the Aussie.
The Welsh Open champion is stunned that Robertson has not done better in Sheffield, but does not think it has anything to do with the lack of space, offering the fact that he has been to at least the quarter-finals six times since lifting the trophy, so he can clearly win games at the Crucible.
Instead, Perry thinks it is something of a ‘mental block’ that Robertson must overcome to be world champion again.
‘Yes it is a mental block, he will tell you otherwise because Neil’s the most positive person I’ve ever come across. I don’t think he’s missed a ball that was his fault since 2001. There’s always a reason for it, always an excuse.
‘He’s the most positive person I’ve ever met and that’s brilliant. It makes him the player that he is because when he loses it’s never his fault so he doesn’t take any baggage with him into the next match.
‘It has to be a mental block, it can’t be anything else.
‘I’ve called him out on it, when he says the venue’s too small. I’ve said to him, “Neil, that’s absolute rubbish. If the venue was too small you’d lose in round one every year. You absolutely obliterate round one and round two, quarter-final stage comes and things start to go wrong.”
‘It has to be a mental block.’
After winning the Masters in January, Robertson admitted that the size of the venue was something of an excuse, and he feels he needs to have the right team around him to help him get over his mental hurdle.
‘I have to stop making excuses about how tight the venue is,’ Robertson said of the Crucible.
‘I have maybe been too stubborn at that event where I haven’t surrounded myself with enough of the right people.
‘It is great winning a tournament by yourself, where you are your own mentor or psychologist, but for the World Championship it is different and you need a good team around you because there are so many sessions.’
After Robertson’s Tour Championship win on Sunday he is the favourite to win the World Championship for a second time at the start of May. He must dislodge his mental block to do so.
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