Snooker: Great Scots meet for first time on the biggest stage


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The Independent Online

Stephen Hendry and John Higgins have won an impressive 11 world championships between them, but surprisingly they have never played each other on the game's biggest stage.

That is until today when Hendry, the seven-time world champion, and Higgins, a four-time Crucible winner and defending champion, go head to head for the first time at the sport's spiritual home in Sheffield.

Although their form could not be more different going into what promises to be a mouthwatering best-of-25-frames duel, they both expect to have to produce their best in their bids to progress to the quarter-finals.

Hendry pocketed a maximum 147 break in his 10-4 first-round victory over Stuart Bingham, but compatriot Higgins was taken the distance in a 10-9 opening win against Liang Wenbo, a Chinese qualifier.

Hendry believes he is a clear "underdog" despite having been the more impressive of the two players in the first round. "I may not be any longer at the stage where I am competing for titles as much as John is over the past few years, so I will be a much bigger underdog than some of the matches, say, where I played Steve Davis when we were more evenly matched in terms of rankings," said Hendry.

"In terms of who has done what recently, John will be favourite. This is a match between two players who have achieved a lot in the game, and I remember certain matches against Steve for that reason. There were a couple of semi-finals at the Crucible in particular. This match means a lot. I will enjoy it and am really looking forward to it."

Higgins has stressed he will have to play much better to keep his hopes alive of a fifth world crown, but is also relishing the showdown. "I can't wait for [it] because it [should] be a great match," said Higgins. The defending champion also joked: "I came in to have a little practice before the match and Stephen just kicked me off the practice table. I'm not too happy about that – maybe it's some mind games before the big one."

Ali Carter, the 2008 runner-up, will face Judd Trump, last year's beaten finalist, in the last 16 tomorrow after he defeated qualifier Mark Davis 10-2. Ahead 8-1 overnight, Carter needed just 45 minutes to progress thanks to breaks of 44, 48 and 132.

Australian Neil Robertson, the 2010 winner, fought back from 3-1 down to build a 5-3 overnight lead over David Gilbert, a qualifier from Tamworth.