by Callum Ellis
THE defending champion Neil Robertson twice came from behind to beat Jamie Clarke 4-2 in the first round of the Welsh Open.
Robertson, who lifted the World Grand Prix trophy – his second ranking title of the year – on Sunday night, has been in impressive form of late.
But he surprisingly found himself behind against the 92nd-ranked Welshman, who took a shock lead by claiming the first frame.
However, in a scrappy opening, the 2010 world champion immediately responded to draw level, before Clarke edged the third to retake the lead.
Robertson failed to pot a seemingly straightforward red and provided Clarke with another chance to increase his advantage, although he failed to pounce on the opportunity.
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And The Thunder From Down Under followed that up by missing a red from mid-range. Robertson has already competed in three ranking finals this year and could be forgiven for being jaded, but he recovered well with a 71 break to draw level once more.
Robertson failed to pot a red with the rest in the fifth and left the ball hanging over the pocket, which Clarke made no mistake in sinking.
Clarke then left Robertson snookered behind the brown and the Aussie twice failed to make contact with a red, increasing the Welshman’s advantage. With a comfortable lead, the 25-year-old looked as though he had all but secured the frame, although he failed to see it out as Roberston hit back.
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Clarke only sit and watch as Robertson, trailing 62-14, finished in impressive style, cleaning up the the table to steal the frame from under his opponent’s nose by a single point.
While Robertson kept his composure and hit a half-century in the sixth frame to secure the victory and set up a second-round meeting with world No 69 Mark Joyce – who came out on top when the pair last met in the 2019 Northern Ireland Open.
Speaking after the victory, Robertson told ExpoSport: “I’ve played in three finals in three successive weeks and I don’t know if anyone has done that before in the game. It’s been crazy. I’ve played some great snooker and my game is in unbelievable shape. This week is not going to have any bad reflection on how I feel.
“If I lost tonight, I wouldn’t have felt like ‘I wish I had pulled out’. I tried to do the right thing as the defending champion and a lot of people were there with their tickets.”