World Snooker 2011: Best is yet to come - Robertson

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport

Neil Robertson has warned his rivals he has yet to reach his peak as he aims to become the first first-time winner to defend the World Snooker Championship.

The Australian, who beat Graeme Dott in last year's final, faces China Open winner Judd Trump in the first round.

"I'm only 29, so I'd love to win more world titles and also the UK and Masters crowns," he told BBC Sport.

"I need to get the best out of my talent and I still haven't made the most of my natural ability."

He added: "I'm good enough to win multiple world titles.

"But you'll probably never again see someone emulate Stephen Hendry, who won seven world titles.

"He was really good and the players down the rankings in those days weren't as good as the ones lower down the rankings at the moment."

Current world number five Robertson has won six ranking titles to date, his most famous being the "tense and error ridden" 18-13 victory over Scotsman Dott to win the 2010 Crucible crown.

He followed that up with a good start to the 2010/2011 season, winning the first of the BBC's quartet of majors, the World Open in Glasgow in September.

But he has failed to make it past the second round of the last three ranking events, including the recent China Open when he was dumped out by Peter Ebdon. However, the Australian believes his poor run may prove to be a good omen.

"My current form is following a similar pattern to that of the 2009/2010 season," he added.

"I won the first event, the Grand Prix [now known as the World Open], then didn't do too well at the China Open before going on to win the Crucible title. I hope history repeats itself."

That year, Robertson opened up his world title bid with a relatively comfortable 10-5 win over Irishman Fergal O'Brien, but on this occasion the world champion expects a far tougher test against 21-year-old snooker prodigy Trump.

The Bristol youngster beat world number four and former Crucible finalist Mark Selby 10-8 to win the China Open - his first ranking event - earlier in April.

"He's always been capable," said Robertson, who is hoping to avoid joining the group that includes Terry Griffiths, Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor and Graeme Dott, who all lost their first-round matches as defending champions.

"He's a talented player who has carried a weight of expectation, but now he's won his first ranking event. Maybe that takes pressure away from me because people will expect him to perform well.

"He's very attacking-minded. It's going to be an open game."

Robertson is fifth favourite for the title with some bookmakers. Three-time winner John Higgins is the shortest price for the title, having won the UK Championship and Welsh Open this season.

Last May, a newspaper story broke during the tournament linking Higgins to match-fixing.

The Scotsman was cleared of all match-fixing allegations at a hearing in September 2010 but admitted bringing the game into disrepute by not reporting the illegal approach made to him to discuss throwing frames.

As a result, he was banned for six months, backdated to May when he was originally suspended, and fined £75,000.

Robertson said that future punishments would be "absolutely brutal" for any player breaching the betting rules.

"The 32 players at this year's World Championship got a letter basically saying anybody that fails to report any approaches would get a lifetime ban from the sport," added the Cambridge-based Australian.

"I think it's fantastic because it keeps all the players on their toes.

"The punishment has to be draconian, it has to be absolutely brutal.

Robertson retains World Open crown

"They've got to understand, if you decide to go down the wrong path, then everything you value in your life sporting-wise has to be taken away from you."

Another three-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, for many years the tournament favourite, has longer odds than Higgins and Selby with some bookies.

'Rocket' O'Sullivan has suffered first-round defeats at the UK Championship, Masters, Welsh Open and China Open and is currently 10th in the rankings.

He also pulled out of the season opener Shanghai Masters because of family reasons and the German Masters citing illness.

"Ronnie's having a tough time and also I don't think he's handled himself very well in certain situations," said Hearn, who recently spoke to the former world number one.

"Pulling out of a tournament [German Masters] the day before it starts is not what I'm looking for."

Robertson, whose partner gave birth to the Australian's first child shortly after last year's final, emphathised with O'Sullivan's plight.

"He's had a lot to deal with off the table," the Melbourne-born player continued.

"There are lot of tournaments and it's hard when you have a young family.

"He's had a dip in form but if he puts his mind to it at the Crucible I'm sure we'll see the best of him."