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“Extra incentive” as Neil Robertson eyes Home Nations grand slam

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Robertson takes on Fan in Shanghai (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Neil Robertson admits he has “extra incentive and motivation” this week as he aims to complete the Home Nations grand slam in Belfast.

The Australian secured his place in the last 32 of the Northern Ireland Open with a 4-2 victory over former European Masters champion Fan Zhengyi at the Waterfront Hall on Monday.

Robertson has won three Home Nations titles – level with Mark Selby – with only Judd Trump (four) enjoying more success since the series launched in 2016.

The Thunder is now looking to become the first player to win all four trophies in the series, having already captured the Scottish Open (2017), Welsh Open (2019) and English Open (2021).

And that has made him even more determined to go all the way at the event in which he has never progressed to the last 16 or beyond.

“This is the only one I haven’t won out of the four,” Robertson told Eurosport. “At this stage in my career, that’s something nice to do – it would be nice to win all four.

“There’s extra incentive and motivation this week and I’ve not really done too well in this tournament over the years anyway, so it would be nice to have a good run and get to the latter stages.”

This is Robertson’s first ranking event of the season, having taken an extended break following his hugely successful 2021-22 campaign that yielded a career best tally of four titles.

And the Triple Crown believes he has reaped the rewards from attempting to play with freedom and without any self-imposed pressure in recent years.

“I’m past stressing over things and looking at ranking lists; just play the game and see where it leads you,” he added.

“You can’t make yourself qualify for anything and you can’t make yourself win something. You’ve just got to try and improve each season and play the way that you enjoy playing the game – that’s the most important thing.

“If you start stressing and being negative and start playing a brand of snooker that you don’t enjoy, then you’re in trouble.

“The last couple of years, I’ve just played really attacking stuff, I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve had my best seasons as a consequence of that. It’s going to be the same this season.”

Robertson will play either Ben Woollaston or John Astley in the last 32 of this year’s Northern Ireland Open.