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Neil Robertson sets the record straight over Crucible “move” comments

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Robertson won four tournaments during the season (Photo by PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Neil Robertson has set the record straight over reports he wanted the World Snooker Championship to be moved away from The Crucible.

Robertson has had a love/hate relationship with the sport’s spiritual home, claiming his maiden world title in 2010 but reaching just one Semi-Final since.

The Australian has openly admitted to struggling to get to grips with the intimate nature of the venue, which sees matches from the First Round to the Quarter-Finals held across two tables simultaneously.

In an interview prior to this year’s Betfred World Championship, Robertson told Eurosport: “If you look at the Masters this year, that was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in, and I think nearly all the players said that, and I believe the atmosphere there is everything that the World Championship isn’t.

“I think we have to be very careful sticking to tradition. There are a lot of sports that have suffered because of that, being too stubborn to move on. I think the Crucible has had a few tables since I’ve been there.

‘The one-table setup is really special but the two-table setup definitely has a lot of room for improvement.

“I think it could be possible [to move the tournament] one day, still in Sheffield of course, because that’s the home of snooker. You could get a venue of 4,000-5,000 [fans]. That would be amazing.”

Robertson has been the season’s stand-out performer, claiming The Masters title, as well as the English Open, Players Championship and Tour Championship.

Having come into the World Championship as pre-tournament favourite, Robertson recovered from 3-1 down to defeat debutant Ashley Hugill 10-5 in the opening round.

Afterwards, he was quick to clarify his comments over a potential switch of venue, insisting: “I never said it would be great to take snooker away from the Crucible.

“It probably went down to a podcast I did while ago. I was asked what changes I would make. My idea was – like at Wimbledon where you have Centre Court and Court One – to give everyone who qualifies the one-table experience.

“I’ve spoken to other players; they also think it’s a great idea. Maybe some traditionalists don’t like it with that dividing wall.

“I just think it’s a potential idea just to expand the tournament. Sheffield is so well-equipped now to deal with that; maybe 20 or 30 years ago, probably not.

“You could have two venues that are very equal, but let everyone finish their season with that one-table setup. I just think it would be an amazing occasion for anyone qualifying as well.

“I guess you could have a second venue in the city, keeping it under a capacity of 1,000, but then you’d also have another one. Everyone gets to enjoy that kind of experience from round one of the Masters, whereas here there are only four players that do.

“Being the World Championship, it should the biggest event from the start; not the biggest event from the semi-finals.”

Robertson, who made four centuries in his opening match, will now face either Jack Lisowski or Matthew Stevens in the Last 16.

The 40-year-old also admitted he has adjusted his preparation for this year’s main event by restricting the space around his practice table.

He added: “The last few years, I’ve blitzed through the first two rounds without any issues with the walls or the tighter space. It’s only been when I’ve allowed myself to get bogged down in matches that I start to look for problems.

“The last couple of weeks, my manager came up with an idea to restrict the space around my table. I brought the bar stools and effectively made a barrier, which is closer [to the table].

“If you look at that match, it was only once that I knocked the wall. In pretty much all the other matches I’ve played here, I’ve probably knocked into them half a dozen times at least.

“I’m much more accustomed to the space because I’ve been able to prepare really well in practise by minimising how much I step back into the shot.

“I certainly seem more comfortable in that space. If you’ve got a really tricky shot and you’re bumping into something, it’s not really ideal preparation to get down on the shot. It seems to have done the trick.

“All the chairs end up back at the bar, so I have to keep dragging them back. As long as I get to the club early enough before the regulars come in, then it’s fine – otherwise, they have to drink their pints on the floor!”