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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?