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Neil Robertson relishing the chance to stop the rot and defend his UK Championship title

Neil Robertson of Australia in action (credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Neil Robertson admits he is perfectly prepared for another crack at UK Championship glory and insists he is unfazed by the added pressure of returning to York as defending champion.

Robertson lifted the prestigious trophy courtesy of a 10-5 victory over Liang Wenbo in last year's final and notably produced a memorable 147 break along the way.

The Australian is now bidding to become the first player since Stephen Hendry 20 years ago to successfully retain this crown and says his confidence is high ahead of the campaign.

"It's been the first time in a while I've had a couple of weeks to prepare for a tournament," said Robertson, speaking exclusively to livesnooker.com.

"With a lot of other events this season, I've gone into them under-cooked and once you go into tournament after tournament not performing well, it's hard to get into your groove.

"I feel personally that the UK Championship is above the Masters in being second only to the World Championship, especially now you have to win seven matches if you want to win it.

"Going into the tournament knowing I've put the work in is going to give me a lot of confidence.

"I've done everything I can do and I'm really happy with the practice so it's just about going out there and doing the business on the table now."

Robertson's maximum at the York Barbican 12 months ago was the first ever to be made in the final of a Triple Crown event, landing him a cool £44,000 bonus, and the left-hander says the feat ranks among his greatest achievements to date.

"That was a very special three weeks or so - winning the Champion of Champions and going on to the win the UK," he added.

"The 147 in the final topped it all off. It's a very special moment to happen in someone's career - that type of form doesn't come along very often so it's important to make the most of it while things are going with you and I certainly did that.

"You never know when the next tournament win is going to come along. 

"It can come along when you don't feel you've been playing particularly well or when you're in a hot run form.

"I just try to be a better player than I was in the previous season and learn from mistakes I've made and try to improve on other things, whether that be better preparation, diet or whatever."

Robertson has been drawn to face Peter Lines in the opening round on Thursday - a player whose best ever run in a ranking tournament saw him reach the Quarter-Finals of the UK Championship in Telford back in 2009.

Despite recently losing his professional Tour Card, Lines has been included in this year's field as a top-up qualifier, and Robertson is refusing to underestimate the threat posed by the Leeds cueist.

"It's going to be a very tough match," admitted Robertson. "Peter is a very experienced player who's not going to be frightened of the occasion as perhaps a younger player or amateur might be.

"His safety is very good and you see that in Oliver (his son) too.

"It is a strange event for the first couple of rounds because there's four tables going on and it's hard for the crowd to be focused on one match.

"If there's other top players on the other tables then it will draw a bit more of a crowd in to create a bit more atmosphere.

"It's just something you have to get used to. Everyone has to got through the same thing and you just have to adjust to it."



Having opted out of last year's competition, Ronnie O'Sullivan resumes his quest for a sixth UK Championship triumph in 2016 and is among a number of decorated names leading the chase for the £170,000 top prize.

Robertson is also regarded a key front-runner for glory and expects the cream to rise come the business end of proceedings.

He added: "The UK Championship is always a tournament which is won by someone you're not surprised at. 

"It's one of the few tournaments that's so prestigious it means an awful lot to the players and that in-turn creates a lot more pressure.

"Obviously the top eight players in the world are all going to be well-fancied - you'd have to say the likes of Ronnie, Judd, Selby and Murphy.

"John Higgins is also on an amazing run of form at the moment so you can never count him out."

Robertson began the season by picking up the Riga Masters trophy in June but has endured a mixed bag of results since, reaching the Semi-Finals of the World Open and European Masters while suffering early exits in the International Championship and Champion of Champions.

The world number seven maintains he is far from unhappy at this performances so far this term, particularly given testing circumstances during recent events on Chinese soil.

Robertson eyes up a shot (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
"If you'd have told me at the start of the season I'd have won a tournament and reached a couple of semis I would have put that down as a solid start," admitted Robertson.

"Because that run was right at the start of the season and not the past month or so it probably makes it look as though it hasn't been great.

"During the recent China trip I got quite frustrated with quite a number of things out there and let myself down a bit.

"It can be quite frustrating when you only get half hour practice slots at the hotel then you have to wait five or six hours for the next slot. 

"It's hard to rectify a few things you need to put right in your game.

"If you take the China tour out of it I think I've performed quite well and maybe been a bit unlucky not to have won another tournament."

Ten years on from claiming his first career ranking title, 'The Thunder from Down Under' is hoping to kick up a storm once again in one of the sport's most historic events.

The 34-year-old has become accustomed to the added pressure of entering a major event as defending champion and feels he can kick-start his season in York.
 
"There's a little bit more pressure there but I'm quite used to it now," he added. "I'm expected to be at the business end of most tournaments.

"I don't feel that kind of pressure anymore and I think it's made easier by how many tournaments we play in now. 

"It's easier to go into tournaments as defending champion and not thinking it's a disaster if I were go out early because there's always another tournament around the corner.

"I've defended quite a few titles successfully and I'm really going to relish this opportunity."

Follow the Betway blog throughout the 2016 UK Championship for news, views and insider tips.



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Neil Robertson relishing the chance to stop the rot and defend his UK Championship title

Neil Robertson admits he is perfectly prepared for another crack at UK Championship glory and insists he is unfazed by the added pressure of returning to York as defending champion.

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