19.com Northern Ireland Open: Day One Highlights!

Higgins Through After Davis Battle

Four-time Crucible king John Higgins clinched his place in the second round of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-7 win over Mark Davis, despite spending seven hours in A&E yesterday.

His brother Jason suffered a fractured kneecap after falling down the Crucible stairs at the conclusion of yesterday’s opening session. Higgins accompanied him to hospital and they will now return home to Glasgow, with Jason due to have an operation tomorrow.

On the table Higgins faced a tough test against world number 38 Davis, who has been his bogey player in recent times. The Wizard of Wishaw had lost six out of his last seven meetings with Sussex cueman Davis coming into this week.

Scotland’s Higgins, who has 30 ranking titles to his name, has been the Crucible runner-up for the previous two seasons. He led Mark Selby 10-4 in the 2017 final, before losing out 18-15. Last year Higgins was defeated 18-16 in an all-time classic final against Mark Williams.

By his own admission Higgins has struggled to shake off those losses. He has failed to win a tournament this season and has suffered several surprising defeats. However, he recently set up a training unit with compatriots Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire and appears to be reaping the rewards of the increased practice.

Higgins came into this afternoon with a 6-3 advantage following yesterday’s play. However, breaks of 57 and 64 helped Davis to immediately close the gap to 6-5. They then traded frames as they went into the mid-session with Higgins 7-6 in front.

The Scot moved to the verge of victory with two sublime breaks of 135 and 132. He clinched the tie in the 17th frame, to book a second round meeting with either Stuart Bingham or Graeme Dott.

Higgins said: “I’ve lost a few games to Mark in the past, he’s such a tough all round player. I think he let me off the hook a bit. I played well yesterday, but today I think he let me off the hook. He missed a few balls he wouldn’t normally miss against me and I managed to come through.

“My brother’s fall was a total freak accident. After he watched me play yesterday, I was going to go and get changed and then we were going to meet for a bit of lunch. Coming off the final step at the Crucible his trainer stuck and his full force went down on his knee, and he’s fractured his kneecap. He was in a bad way yesterday, we were at the hospital for about six or seven hours. Because it’s a bank holiday weekend it was really busy. They weren’t going to be able to give him an operation until Wednesday, so hopefully we can get him up the road back to Scotland and he can get an operation tomorrow.

“I’d like Graeme to win because he’s one of my mates on the tour and a fellow Scotsman, that would be a great occasion. Stuart has been one of the players of the season. People are saying our half of the draw is pretty easy, but there are four World Champions and that’s not counting Barry Hawkins and Kyren Wilson. There’s never an easy draw, and there’s always shocks aplenty here.”

Afterwards Davis was philosophical about the defeat and positive looking ahead to next season.

“I’ve played a lot worse than that and won plenty of matches, that’s for sure. I barely did anything wrong yesterday and was only 6-3 down,” said Davis. “I enjoyed every minute of it. My game’s as good as ever, but I’m 46 year’s old, so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get here again. I brought my family up and just really wanted to enjoy it, and I did. My boy loves it. He came to Crawley, which was his first taste of it, and I think he’s got the bug”

“I’ve been working with Chris Henry as my coach this year and that’s given me a bit of enthusiasm to practice, which does get harder as you get older.”