Saturday 24 March 2018

McGill close to ending Selby reign

Anthony McGill in action against Mark Selby during day seven of the Betfred World Championships at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield
Anthony McGill in action against Mark Selby during day seven of the Betfred World Championships at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield

Betfred World Championship debutant Anthony McGill moved within three frames of dispatching reigning champion Mark Selby following a strong end to the opening session of Friday's action.

McGill, tipped by Ronnie O'Sullivan as a future winner of the tournament at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, rattled off three winning frames to lead the second-round match 10-6 after the rivals had started the day locked on 4-4.

All the momentum heading into the evening session will be with the 24-year-old Glaswegian after he seized the last frame 72-3 as breaks of 54 and 18 swept him out of sight.

He was at his most impressive in frame 14, however, when he pieced together a break of 125 to close in on the biggest victory of his career.

Selby is in danger of surrendering the title he won for the first time last year in only the second round and enters the evening session knowing he must win all seven remaining frames to progress further at the Crucible.

McGill, whose shock of red hair makes him instantly recognisable, was forced to qualify for the World Championship but now stands on the cusp of a famous upset at Selby's expense.

Indications of Selby's vulnerability were apparent in the opening round when he had to scrap his way to a 10-9 win over Kurt Maflin, battling back after losing five successive frames.

He now faces becoming the latest victim of the 'Curse of the Crucible', whereby no first-time champion has ever returned to Sheffield to make a successful title defence.

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry has been impressed by the performance of McGill.

"The biggest thing is that he is showing tremendous temperament. He looks like he's been here for years when it's his debut at the Crucible. Nothing seems to faze him," Hendry said.

"Although he's had a nice 125, I'd like to see him win more frames from his first scoring visit. If he wants to win the World Championship, he has to do that more often as the tournament progresses.

"But I've been really impressed with the way he's held himself together and he's outplayed Mark Selby so far."

In the afternoon session, four-time world champion John Higgins found himself trailing 9-7 in his last-16 clash with world number three Ding Junhui, having been 5-1 up at one stage on Thursday.

Scot Higgins, who last won here in 2011, took a 5-3 lead into Friday's session after winning five of the first six frames the previous day, but struggled to find form against the Chinese as Ding took the first two frames to move level.

The 39-year-old struck back to regain his two-frame advantage with a score of 68 in the 11th - his highest score of the day - before Ding came back and clinched the next three to go ahead for the first time in the match.

Former world number one Ding then sealed the last frame of the session as he fought back from a 57-0 deficit to see off his Scottish opponent 69-58 to take a two-frame lead into their Saturday morning session.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Mark Allen holds a 5-3 lead over Barry Hawkins after they got their second-round match under way in Sheffield.

The Hawk from Kent lost the first two before bouncing back to level matters with a score of 82-0 in the fourth, but 2009 semi-finalist Allan clinched the fifth.

Hawkins, who reached the last-four here last season, made it 3-3 soon after but his Northern Irish opponent hit back to seal the final two frames of the day to hold the advantage ahead of Saturday's second session.

Press Association

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