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Defending champion Robertson encounters Ebdon at UK snooker

If there’s one player on the world snooker tour that really frustrates reigning UK champion Neil Robertson, then it’s 2006 winner Peter Ebdon.

Event sponsors Coral make ‘the Thunder from Down Under’ among the favourites at a best price 9/2 to retain his title at the Barbican Centre in York, but to do so the Australian potter must beat an opponent he has struggled against in recent meetings.

World number two Robertson has won just one of his last encounters with Ebdon, who is nicknamed ‘Captain Slow’ for his cautious approach and strong safety play.

Big breaks and potting balls off the lampshade are what excite fans of snooker, but 2002 Crucible king Ebdon is only interested in being meticulous. He is an 11/4 chance to upset Robertson in round three of this year’s UK Championship, which is splendid value considering he has won all but two of his encounters with the Aussie.

The Thunder seems rather short as odds-on 2/7 favourite for the match when you look at the played nine, lost seven record against Ebdon, as well as needing a final frame decider to edge youngster Kyren Wilson in round two.

All the recent fixtures pitting Robertson and Captain Slow against one another have come over shorter frame formats as well. This is another worry, but punters and fans that enjoy seeing attack versus defence will not be disappointed on.

What Robertson needs to do is simple. Avoid getting dragged into lengthy safety exchanges with Ebdon, who wants a deliberately tortoise-esque pace. If the Thunder can keep his opponent in his chair, then he will avoid that.

Robertson’s highest break at the tournament so far is just 90, though. Enough to win frames, but hardly what you’d call laying down a marker for a menacing tilt at defending his crown.

When Ebdon beat the Aussie as last season’s International Championship, the match went the distance of 11 frames, which is as many as can be played here. Odds of 19/5 say their latest renewal will end in a decider.

This will be a close one to call, just like another two last 32 matches between four players in and around the current top 16.

It’s toss of a coin stuff between two men who have triumphed in York before. Mark Williams won the second of his two UK crowns in 2002, while two years later Glasgow’s Stephen Maguire followed suit.

These two men will need to raise their game to go all the way again, but have four wins apiece from previous head-to-heads. That, coupled with their proximity in the rankings means Maguire and Williams are both rated equal 10/11 chances to win their latest meeting.

Robert Milkins and former world champion Graeme Dott also clash, and sit next to one another as 16th and 17th seeds. History is on the latter’s side, though, with three previous victories over fellow veteran ‘the Milkman’.

‘The Pocket Dynamo’ is not the favourite for their latest match, however, at 6/5, because Milkins has whitewashed two early round opponents.

Historically, ‘the Milkman’ does do better during the first half of the snooker season, so is an odds-on 4/6 favourite. If there’s one player who will relish underdog status, though, then it is surely gritty Glasgow native Dott.