Friday 23 March 2018

McManus shocks Higgins to set up Doherty date

Alan McManus of Scotland (Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Alan McManus of Scotland (Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigel Whittaker

ALAN McMANUS beat four-time world champion John Higgins 10-7 at the Crucible to set up a second-round date with Ken Doherty.

A second successive first-round loss for Higgins came on the back of a misfiring performance as McManus, whose tartan trousers caught the eye, qualified for the second round for the first time since 2005.

Higgins had taken the final two frames of the opening session on Monday to slow the charge of McManus, cutting his arrears to 6-3 overnight, but any momentum he might have felt failed to influence his performance on the resumption.

A fluked red gave Higgins the impetus to stop the early morning rot and get back to 8-4 and, after losing the next to go one frame away from defeat, he belatedly found some vintage form, with the 38-year-old making 111, 67 and 94 to close the gap to 9-7.

McManus (43) trailed in the next frame too, but Higgins missed the blue when he looked like going just one frame behind and his good friend seized the unexpected match-winning chance.

"It was a bit of a tense finish. It's never easy to put John away," said McManus. "Although John probably never played as well as he would have liked in most of the match, he came on strong towards the end and I kind of just fell over the line so I feel very fortunate.

"Now I play my fellow old-stager, Ken, and I really look forward to it. I'm sure Ken will be looking forward to it as much as I am."

Higgins conceded that his days as a regular title contender may be behind him.

"It's been a bad season but I'm a lot happier compared to last year. I think I'm playing better – that's a crumb of comfort I can take," he said.

"I feel as if there's something there that I can work on. There have been times when I've been sat here desolate, but I still think there's some decent snooker left in me.

"I'm not one of the top players that's challenging for events, I'm possibly a journeyman top-16 player now. But the journeymen can have their day sometimes."

Higgins followed Ding Junhui through the exit door after Michael Wasley sprang one of the Crucible's great upsets by beating the world No 2.

In a midnight finish, Wasley prevailed 10-9 against China's great title hope after a breathtaking and hastily arranged third session.

They had been forced to go off with Ding leading 9-8 as the afternoon session ran over its allocated time.

An inspired Wasley seized the moment at the climax to the match, levelling with an impeccable 103 break and holding his nerve in an ultra-tense 19th frame.

Ding had been seeded to meet Ronnie O'Sullivan in the semi-finals.

Wasley, who belied his inexperience and world ranking of 73, sealed his win on the pink.


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Irish Independent

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