Snooker: Higgins humbled by Gray

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The Independent Online

John Higgins suffered a surprise defeat in his opening match at the Regal Scottish Open in Aberdeen last night. The former world champion and world No 1 lost 5-4 against the Londoner David Gray at the Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Higgins won his fourth trophy of the 2001-2002 campaign at the Irish Masters in Dublin last month.But he described his performance as "pathetic" and "disgraceful" as Gray qualified to meet Mark King or Anthony Hamilton in the last 16.

"I don't know which person is going to turn up at Sheffield for the World Championship," agreed Higgins, after letting slip a winning 4-3 lead. "We will just have to wait and see."

Higgins made 80 in the seventh frame and seemed to have weathered the storm. And when he had an opportunity to clear up in the eighth, the winning post came into view. However, after potting a blue to move on to 35 he failed to get position on the next red and handed the initiative back to Gray. A run of 30 enabled Gray to set up the decider and, helped by a valuable effort of 42, the underdog moved into the third round.

Peter Ebdon, beaten by Higgins in the recent Irish Masters final, made a successful start to the defence of his crown. However, the provisional world No 5 had to work hard to defeat the veteran John Parrott 5-3. Ebdon now meets Joe Swail or Michael Judge for a place in the quarter-finals.

Nigel Bond is looking for an extended run in Aberdeen after failing to qualify for the World Championship. The former Crucible runner-up virtually guaranteed his place in the top 32 for next season by putting out Matthew Stevens 5-4. Bond showed his old form with a break of 100 to win the decider, completing his comeback having been 2-0 and 3-2 down.

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