Snooker: Higgins conquers his first-round nerves in style
Friday 22 April 2011
John Higgins, the triple world champion, admitted he felt a bout of nerves before digging deep to secure his place in the last 16 stage of this year's World Championship.
Higgins clinched a 10-5 victory over Stephen Lee in their first-round match in Sheffield last night, but despite compiling four centuries and leading 6-3 overnight, Higgins, the world No 1, said he was far from happy with the start to his challenge.
"I didn't feel so good starting off, I was really, really edgy," confessed Higgins who, since returning from a six-month ban for bringing the sport into disrepute, has won five tournaments.
"I was lucky because Stephen let me off the hook a little bit at the start of the match. I was delighted to be 6-3 up after the first session because I didn't feel great about my game. It doesn't matter who you're playing in your first match at the Crucible, there's always going to be nerves. But I felt a lot better in the second session and I played well."
Breaks of 124, 74 and 81 did the trick in the final session and Higgins now faces qualifier Rory McLeod, from Wellingborough, on Sunday. "There'll be people thinking I'm the man to beat, but there's a lot of players capable of winning this," added the 35-year-old. "The standard is so high, if you look at my draw I'm going to have to do it the hard way."
Mark Selby, the 2007 Crucible runner-up, is showing ominous signs that he's in determined mood to win the title. The self-proclaimed "Jester from Leicester" certainly was not joking as he powered to an impressive 10-1 first-round demolition of Jimmy Robertson, of Sussex, at snooker's grandest stage.
Ahead 8-1 overnight, Selby needed just over half an hour to win the two frames he needed to dispense with a nervous Robertson and progress to the last 16. The world No 3 revealed he has an extra incentive to win his first World Championship. Next month the 27-year-old marries his long-term girlfriend Vikki Layton, a semi-professional ladies pool player, in Cancun, Mexico.
"It [the wedding] will be a great occasion, but it'd be nice to put the icing on the cake and to go there as world champion," said Selby. "I've managed to get out of all the planning, so the longer I stay in the tournament the better because I'll be able to get out of some more as well."
Mark Williams, the two-time world champion, maintained his fine form this season and put one foot in the quarter-finals. The Welshman, a Crucible winner in 2000 and 2003, powered into a commanding 7-1 over Stoke's Jamie Cope after the opening session of their last 16 match.
Williams compiled breaks of 49, 51, 72 and 49 to lead 4-0, before Cope – who mustered a top break of just 38 – won a scrappy fifth frame. But it remained one-way traffic as Williams won the next three frames with runs of 54 and 44 to give himself a great chance of winning their best-of-25 frame match with a welcome session to spare.
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