Neil Robertson will have Jimmy White on his mind when he launches the defence of his World Championship title.
The Australian is conscious that crowd favourite White, a six-time runner-up, never had the pleasure of returning to the Crucible as defending champion.
So it will be the Whirlwind’s misfortune, as much as his own father’s advice to enjoy the occasion, which will influence Robertson’s approach to his opening match against hotshot Judd Trump on Saturday.
“I’m going to enjoy it as much as possible,” Robertson said. “That’s the important thing, win or lose. There’s been a lot of great players, such as Jimmy, who haven’t had the privilege of playing in the Crucible as the defending world champion.”
White was beaten in six finals from 1984-1994 but has not featured at the World Championship since 2006, his days as a contender for the top prizes long gone.
Robertson’s determination to savour the occasion against Trump - “win or lose” - does not sound like the attitude of a typical Australian sportsman and would probably be scoffed at by the likes of Ricky Ponting, John Eales or Lleyton Hewitt.
But he explains: “Once I get out there on the table I’m an absolute animal. It’s about going in there with the right train of thought. You have to find a way of not putting extra pressure on yourself, thinking you must win otherwise the world’s going to collapse. You’ve got to keep your emotions in check. I’ve always managed to do that, even when I’ve lost. I’ve been really disappointed but I forget about it once the other guy’s won, I just get on with it.
“My dad has always said to me, ‘Whenever you lose, don’t worry about it. Don’t create any nerve damage’. You see some players where they’ve lost a really big match in their career and they’ve just absolutely crumbled. So that’s what I’ve always tried to do. You’re gutted when you lose but you need to be able to move on.” Robertson will have his father, Ian, in the crowd for both sessions tomorrow.
Father and son are both hoping for a long Sheffield stay, but Robertson could have had a much kinder first-round draw, with Trump’s triumph at the China Open at the start of April confirming his emergence as a contender for major trophies.