Snooker: Higgins shrugs off early nerves to thwart Stevens' fightback

Six returning title-holders have perished in their opening match here but despite fears to the contrary, John Higgins convincingly avoided becoming the seventh with an eye-catching performance on day one of the World Championship.

Any thoughts that Higgins, who has failed to reach the last four in ranking tournaments this season, would fall at the earliest opportunity were dispelled by his 10-5 victory over Matthew Stevens, a player boasting a distinguished Crucible pedigree.

Stevens, twice a finalist and three times a semi-finalist since 2000, led 2-1 before Higgins shrugged off early hesitancy to storm through the following six frames for a commanding 7-2 lunchtime advantage.

Steve Davis, the defending champion on six occasions, once noted that the first-day atmosphere is stifling. "The first shock hasn't happened yet and you can't help worrying it might be you," he said. Hence the genuine concern of Higgins last night as Stevens rallied to trail only 7-5.

Stevens also had the initial chance in the 13th frame but, using the rest, expensively jawed a red to a baulk pocket. Higgins stepped in with a nerve-settling run of 75 and, his momentum regained, swiftly plundered the next two games with breaks of 120 and 103.

"After I nicked the fourth to go 2-2, I scored very heavily and that's always good for boosting your confidence," said Higgins. "I know from personal experience that you can't lift the trophy here without doing that." He now meets Ryan Day or Michael Judge in the last 16.

"I tried to block out the fact that he was coming back at me. I kept telling myself that I was still in front and the one in the driver's seat. I was determined to stay positive, no matter what," Higgins added. "When I drew Matthew I was gutted but I realised he was under a lot of pressure because he needed to win the match to get back into the top 16 in the rankings next season. He probably felt even more sick about the draw than I did.

"I don't deserve any plaudits or anyone predicting that I'm going to win here again. I've had a poor season but I feel I'm really well prepared and I know in my own mind I've got as good a shot at this as anyone."

It was the first time in 11 visits to the sport's most famous venue that Stevens, a former Masters and UK champion, has been eliminated in the first round.

Australian Neil Robertson, who resumes this morning with a 7-2 lead over Nigel Bond, has not played as well this year as he did in winning two ranking titles last season. But breaks of 70, 70 and 80 showed that the 26-year-old left-hander was in fine fettle.

Jamie Cope, a 22-year-old from Stoke who has already appeared in two ranking finals, marked his debut here by taking a 5-2 lead over Peter Ebdon before the 2002 world champion replied with breaks of 87 and 103 to limit his overnight arrears to 5-4.

Joe Swail, twice a semi-finalist at the Crucible, resumes this evening with a 7-2 lead over Stephen Lee, runner-up in the Masters at Wembley in January.

Having won two titles this season, Ronnie O'Sullivan is favourite for the world title. Mark Selby and Stephen Maguire have also won twice this year, and Shaun Murphy, outstandingly consistent, comes here as provisional No 1 in the world rankings.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month