World Championship

'Brutal' – Neil Robertson puts snooker before family for world title dream; Ding Junhui will play

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Neil Robertson | Snooker | ESP Player Feature

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30/06/2020 at 10:55 | Updated 30/06/2020 at 11:28

Neil Robertson has revealed he has postponed returning to see family in Australia so he can play in the delayed World Championship next month.

The 2010 world champion was reacting to the news that several players from overseas are unlikely to participate in this year's event in Sheffield after it was moved from its original date (18 April-4 May) to 31 July-16 August due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

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Former Grand Prix winner and two-times world semi-finalist Marco Fu – back home in Hong Kong – has already withdrawn from the qualifying event (21 July-28 July) at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield alongside Chinese players Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong and Zhao Xintong, who all cited concerns over travelling amid the health crisis.

“The figures I am looking at show that the risk of infection from Covid-19 is significantly higher in the UK than in Hong Kong at this moment," said Fu.

But UK champion and 2016 world finalist Ding Junhui has confirmed he will return from China to play after missing last week's Tour Championship won by his replacement Stephen Maguire. It ensures the top 16 in the sport's ranking will all make the starting grid.

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New world number four Mark Allen has argued that the suggestion that the event could be postponed from its new date is "laughable". It is a sentiment Robertson shares with players making sacrifices to be ready for the Crucible Theatre, a tournament that is likely to be played behind closed doors.

"Brutal for the ones who were in contention to keep their place on tour," said the world number two on Twitter.

"World Snooker done everything they can and it was the reason why I didn’t go back home despite how much I wanted to. Been nearly a year since I seen my family but knew this could happen so I stayed."

The Melburnian is among the hot favourites to claim the trophy and the top prize of £500,000. He is priced at 5/1 behind five-times winner Ronnie O'Sullivan (4/1) and defending champion Judd Trump (5/2).

Allen believes players have a moral obligation to support World Snooker, sponsors Betfred and broadcasters to ensure the tournament is played on its rescheduled date.

"I appreciate how unfortunate it is for the 11/12 players who have withdrawn," said Northern Ireland's new world number four Allen, who lost 10-6 to Stephen Maguire in the final of the Tour Championship.

"Would it be fair to cancel an event for the 130 who have chosen to play?"

"To suggest that the World Championship should be cancelled is laughable.

"World Snooker has to continue with the sport! I'm assuming contracts must be upheld with broadcasters and sponsors, as well as continuing to create opportunities for as many players as possible to earn a living.

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"I know if I was one of those who couldn't play for whatever reason I'd be annoyed but surely people have to see the bigger picture here."

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn is adamant the show must go on despite any absentees.

"Every player has been contacted with help on visas / air tickets / financial help etc," said Hearn on Twitter. "Impossible to do more but with over 90 per cent wanting to play and prepared to travel the event has to go on. Unprecedented times, but we will continue to deliver our events."

Judd Trump and Barry Hearn.

Image credit: Eurosport

World Championship first round draw

  • Judd Trump Eng (1) v Qualifier
  • Yan Bingtao Chn (16) v Qualifier
  • Stephen Maguire Sco (9) v Qualifier
  • Kyren Wilson Eng (8) v Qualifier
  • John Higgins Sco (5) v Qualifier
  • David Gilbert Eng (12) v Qualifier
  • Jack Lisowski Eng (13) v Qualifier
  • Mark Allen NI (4) v Qualifier
  • ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
  • Mark Williams Wal (3) v Qualifier
  • Stuart Bingham Eng (14) v Qualifier
  • Ding Junhui Chn (11) v Qualifier
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan Eng (6) v Qualifier
  • Mark Selby Eng (7) v Qualifier
  • Shaun Murphy Eng (10) v Qualifier
  • Barry Hawkins Eng (15) v Qualifier
  • Neil Robertson Aus (2) v Qualifier
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