Masters Snooker 2013: Neil Robertson eyes historic title

Defending champion Neil Robertson aims to join a select group by defending his Masters crown starting on Sunday.

Only Cliff Thorburn (1985/86), Stephen Hendry (five in a row from 1989-1993) and the late Paul Hunter (2001/2002) have won the title in successive years.

"Defending it is something that few players have done," Robertson told BBC Sport. "The way the standard is now, it is very difficult to defend titles.

"You have to play well from the start. Only a world class player can win it."

Robertson, who added the Masters to his 2010 world crown, starts the invitational event for the world's top 16-ranked players against China's Ding Junhui on Sunday.

The Melbourne-born left-hander believes the Masters is snooker's second most prestigious tournament, even though it is not a ranking event.

"The Masters is the biggest tournament after the World Championship as nearly every player is a tournament winner," said the 30-year-old.

"You don't get an easy draw and you have to play well from the start.

"Any player who has won a World Championship, if they can add a Masters or UK Championship to it, it puts you in a select group. It is a fantastic feeling to have done it,"

Shaun Murphy, who lost 10-6 to Robertson in last year's final, is aiming to go one better and become only the eighth player to complete the 'triple crown' of snooker's three major events, having won the 2005 world title and 2008 UK Championship.

Like many other players, he relishes the atmosphere in London, with the event having made a successful switch last year to Alexandra Palace.

"The London crowd are that bit more boisterous than elsewhere and they love their snooker," said world number four Murphy, who starts his campaign against fellow Englishman Ricky Walden.

"The atmosphere is always brilliant and every match could be a final. Ricky has been a good mate of mine for a long time and is a class player. It will be a tough week."

One player hoping to feel inspired by the setting is world number two Judd Trump, who begins his quest for a maiden Masters title against Barry Hawkins on Tuesday.

The Bristol-born potter is aiming to bounce back from his shock defeat by Mark Joyce in the first round of the UK Championship, but insists that setback has not affected his form.

"I have had a good season, just one [major] loss in the UK," he told BBC Sport. "I have got to four, five finals so it has been a successful year so far.

"I have had a lot of tough defeats but I get over them easily and move on to the next tournament and try my best there.

"Everyone is tough in the Masters so we all just want to get through to the next round. I am looking forward to it."