Neil Robertson Blitzes in Belgium - European Masters
Neil Robertson was in fine scoring form as he powered his way into the second round of the European Masters with a 4-0 victory over Fang Xiongman on Monday.
In the three held over matches from the qualifying round, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, and Luca Brecel all managed to escape an early exit with contrasting victories.
On a busy and dramatic first day of action in Lommel, the first time a ranking event has been staged in Belgium for 23 years, Kyren Wilson and Martin Gould were among the bigger names who crashed out.
The performance of day one, though, had to be from Australia’s Robertson, who knocked in consecutive breaks of 76, 134, 80, and 100 as he routed his helpless Chinese opponent.
Robertson, although already a winner this season in the invitational Hong Kong Masters, has mostly struggled in ranking tournaments for almost a season and a half.
There have been a few signs lately that the 35 year-old has begun to rediscover his scoring boots, which would obviously make him a real threat for the title this week.
Defending champion Trump also recorded a whitewash victory courtesy of a century in the last frame of his 4-0 defeat of Chris Totten in the last 128.
However, it was much more difficult for world number one Selby and the local favourite Brecel as both popular players required all seven frames to just about squeeze into the first round proper.
Both China Championship victor Brecel and Selby, who has been struggling to find the kind of form that saw him dominate the circuit during the last campaign, held off similar fight backs from Sam Craigie and Mark Joyce respectively before advancing at the death.
World Open runner-up Wilson wasn’t so fortunate, with the Kettering cueist succumbing to a tight loss to Gerard Greene that was concluded on the final colours.
Gould, meanwhile, led 2-0 and 3-2 – constructing a tournament-high run of 143 in the process – but was ultimately denied by rookie Billy Joe Castle in another 4-3 scoreline, while Mark King and Michael Holt were other notable casualties.
Elsewhere, Ireland’s Ken Doherty continued his positive start to the season with a hard-fought 4-2 triumph against Jak Jones.
The Dubliner didn’t boast a single break above 50 but used all of his crafty skills set to get passed the Welshman.
Another former world champion Peter Ebdon managed a more straightforward win as he downed Dominic Dale 4-0 thanks to breaks of 67 and 53.
Among the other competitors to progress were Alan McManus, Ben Woollaston, and Martin O’Donnell, while Joe Perry enjoyed a walkover thanks to Soheil Vahedi’s no show.
On Tuesday, the likes of John Higgins, Mark Williams, and Anthony McGill enter the fray while the trio of Selby, Trump, and Brecel join the last 64 for their first round encounters too.