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Reigning champion Robertson knocked out by amateur Astley

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Neil Robertson
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 23 November -5 December Coverage: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and app
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Reigning champion Neil Robertson fell to a shock 6-2 defeat by amateur John Astley in the first round of the UK Championship in York.

Apart from a break of 124 in the sixth frame, the Australian showed little of the form that helped him win the English Open earlier in November.

Astley, 32, grew in confidence as the match progressed and made breaks of 74, 83 and 119 on his way to a famous win.

Yan Bingtao also advanced with a 6-0 whitewash of Hong Kong’s Ng On-yee.

Current Masters champion Yan made breaks of 67, 100, 107 and 92 to open up a 4-0 lead over the former women’s world champion, who scored just nine points in those frames.

Astley delivers command performance

While that result was not unexpected, Robertson’s defeat by a player that has fallen off the main tour and last reached the second round of the UK Championship in 2013, can be regarded as a huge upset.

The 2010 world champion arrived in York with a victory over John Higgins and a 21st ranking title fresh in his mind and confidently talked up his chances of repeating his 2020 success, when he triumphed 10-9 in an epic late-night finish against Judd Trump.

However, Astley becomes the second amateur to beat a UK champion this week after Shaun Murphy was knocked out by China’s Si Jiahui on the opening day – prompting Murphy to heavily criticise the presence of amateur players in professional events.

“It hurts,” Robertson told BBC Sport. “As the defending champion you don’t want to give up the title so easily, but you have to credit John.

“He played a brilliant match. He probably played the match of his life. There was a crowd, it was on the main table and he stood up to it and played as if he had nothing to lose.”

Astley settled quicker than Robertson, making a frame-winning 74 break to open up as Robertson struggled to find any rhythm.

And the Gateshead player, who performed at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre – better known as the World Championship’s regular venue – in a play called The Nap in 2016, knocked in a long pink to edge back ahead after Robertson levelled.

Astley took the fourth frame of a drawn-out affair and made a nerveless 83 before Robertson rallied with a break of 124.

But there was no comeback forthcoming, with Astley superbly making a break of 119 before sealing his victory.

In Thursday’s other first-round matches, Martin Gould won 6-1 against Barry Pinches, and Joe Perry triumphed by the same scoreline against Fraser Patrick.

Ali Carter recorded a 6-3 win over Jimmy White while former world champion Graeme Dott advanced with a 6-3 victory over Jamie O’Neill.

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