Australian professional snooker player Neil Robertson previewed the Betfred World Championship, speaking candidly about his struggles with mental health during the lockdown periods ahead of the tournament.

In December, the 39-year-old claimed his UK Championship title when he defeated Judd Trump in a marathon final-frame decider but has since withdrawn from a number of tournaments.

Robertson explained his absence in the second half of the season when sitting down with the World Snooker Tour ahead of the annual 2021 World Snooker Championship.

“In the first half of the season, I knew where to put my mindset and I knew that the crowds weren’t going to be back in,” he opened up. “I knew my son’s football was still going to be cancelled and there was still no chance of seeing anyone in Australia so I was just completely focussed to get the job done.

“I thought I’ll get through Christmas and the crowds will be back and happily ever after, but the lockdown ended and within a month it came back again. I just felt really down overall. It was probably the first time in my career where I felt as though I actually really didn’t want to play. Sometimes you’re playing in tournaments and something will click during the event but I didn’t want to play at all.

“The Masters was really tough to get up for without the crowd. That was a big blow when I won the UK and it was announced that we were going to have crowds back at Alexandra Palace so I was really looking forward to that and then the tournament was back at Milton Keynes again with no crowds.”

Robertson teared up as he recounted how his wife penned a letter to the Australian government, detailing his situation and achievements, to allow his father to exit the country to visit him in the UK, fearing that it could be a matter of years before he was reunited with his family.

He continued: “I’m sure many other players have had it much tougher than me. It’s been tough for the guys who have got families and especially young kids as well. For many parents all around the world and especially in the UK that haven’t been able to send their kids to school, it’s hard to explain the strange situation that we’re in.

“It affects different people in different ways. It’s the first time I’ve really felt, at that point around January and February, that down and homesick, missing my family a lot. At the time, Australia wasn’t letting anyone out of the country so it was probably going to be two-and-a-half years, I thought, until I was going to be able to see any of my family again.”

Robertson will be in action from 17 April to 3 May at the upcoming snooker tournament to be held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which has also, incidentally, been earmarked as a possible pilot event for the return of sporting spectators.

Neil Robertson highlights importance of mental health ahead of Betfred World Championship