Snooker: Higgins loses his spark

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The Independent Online
THE HOLDER John Higgins and his Welsh opponent, Matthew Stevens, struggled to overcome their nerves in a disappointing opening session to their Liverpool Victoria UK Championship semi-final in Bournemouth yesterday.

Higgins, the world No 1, had the consolation of taking a 5-3 advantage into the final nine-frame session after a particularly poor performance by his standards.

Both men struggled to come to terms with a table that had been recovered overnight after the conclusion to the quarter-finals. Indeed, Higgins conceded the fourth frame when only 40 points adrift and with 59 points still available, such was his frustration and annoyance.

The first 13 days of the tournament have produced a glut of century breaks, including a maximum 147 for Stephen Hendry. There was no addition to the total yesterday afternoon in a session that dragged on for three hours, Higgins making the only sizeable contribution of note when a break of 76 put him 4-2 ahead.

Otherwise it was turgid stuff and a far cry from when the duo contested the final of last season's UK Championship.

Higgins, who had previously compiled four centuries in the televised stages of the pounds 500,000 event, added runs of just 39 and 46. Stevens, the world No 9 from Carmarthen, fared even worse. His top effort was only 40, although he could easily have finished the session level at 4-4 had he not missed the yellow.

n Kelly Fisher, who won the ladies' UK title in Bournemouth last Sunday, returns to the venue tomorrow to feature in an experimental game with her rival, Emma Bonney. In an attempt to speed up the game, players will be allowed to place the cue ball anywhere on the table once a foul shot has been committed.

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