Neil Robertson has called for a second Crucible to double the snooker fun in Sheffield.
The Australian is the player of the season and title favourite at the Betfred World Championship – and eased into the last 16 with a 10-5 win over debutant Ashley Hugill on Tuesday.
World No3 Robertson, 40, rattled in four centuries as he sent out a strong message he may finally be ready to claim a second world title 12 years after his first. But the Thunder From Down Under has never been a fan of the dividing wall in the iconic arena in the early rounds.
And Robertson reckons that in order for every player to enjoy being centre stage in Sheffield the sport’s bosses should build Crucible II in the Steel City.
Robertson said: “I’d just like to expand the tournament as Sheffield has so much to offer, and maybe you could have two Crucible venues that are very equal.
“And I think that would involve having a second venue in the city with maybe the same 1,000 capacity and also just one table.
“The World Championship should be the biggest event from the start, not from the semi-finals.
“If you were looking at changes, maybe like with Wimbledon where you have Centre Court and Court One, we could have everyone on show.
“That way everyone gets to be on a one-table set-up, that would be an amazing tournament to have and keep the event in Sheffield with the original building and all the tradition.
“But I have never said it would be great to take snooker away from the Crucible.
“On my form this season, the tournaments I have won the most pleasing thing is the great players I have beaten during them or in the finals. Ronnie, Mark Williams, John Higgins…”
Standing well over six feet tall, Robertson has also always felt cramped while playing at the Crucible both against the partition and by the players’ chairs.
And this year to crack the code he has gone to extraordinary lengths at his practice base in Cambridge to recreate the tight conditions and adapt to them.
Revealing a secret club bar-stool plan, he added: “The last few weeks I came up with an idea to restrict the space around my practice table.
“I brought the bar stools in there and created a barrier to restrict me walking around the table. And against Ashley I only knocked the wall once, I think, Usually it is half a dozen times.
“But the regulars then take them all back to the bar every day and I have to keep dragging them back”
“It was interesting that when the Mark Williams match finished early on Monday afternoon and the dividing wall went up, I went on a really good run of frames against Ashley.
“I have maybe been too desperate to get to the one-table set-up here, and gone away from my natural game.
“But Joe Perry has been telling me to stop making excuses for not doing so well here in recent years, and I think I am all out of them now. I feel great about my game.”
York’s Hugill, 27, is based in Sheffield at one of the academies in the city and enjoyed plenty of local support. He started well and then after falling 9-3 behind following a barrage of breaks from Robertson showed character in making the score more respectable.
The world No77 said: “I played all right and didn’t collapse – I held my own so it was okay. I couldn’t believe how calm I was at the start, I thought I would be a bag of nerves. I got three frames in a row to be 3-1 up, and then when he got five in a row to be 6-3 overnight I was just glad to still be in it.
“I am pleased I competed in patches with the current best player in the world. And potentially I may just have lost to this year’s world champion.
“I was trying not to look into the crowd too much because the atmosphere was amazing and I thought I might get intimidated. But later in the match I started to let it soak in a bit. And it wasn’t as tight as I expected. We had the divider up when the other match finished early in the first session and that was very different again with lots more space.
“It has certainly made we want to get back here, I have to play here again. I want to establish myself on the tour next season, and get into the top 32.”
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