Monday 18 December 2017

Snooker: Higgins holds off Lee rally as sublime Selby strolls into second round

John Skilbeck

John Higgins finished off Stephen Lee last night to pass his first test at the World Championship.

The 35-year-old briefly came under pressure when Lee fought back from 8-3 to 8-5 at the mid-session interval, but breaks of 74 and 81 made sure of his place in the second round.

Higgins led 6-3 from the first session, in which he made three centuries, and added his fourth of the match immediately on the resumption to stretch his lead.

When the Scot increased his lead to five frames, Lee looked forlorn in his seat.

But the Trowbridge potter began to make inroads when a break of 101 gave him the next frame, and he looked to be playing well as he added the 13th.

It was imperative that Lee maintained such form on his return to the arena, but he left Higgins an easy starting red, and that proved a costly error.

Higgins plundered a frame-winning break to leave himself one away from victory, and although a missed red meant a fifth century in the match eluded him, a solid opening victory was soon secured.


Earlier, hotly-tipped Mark Selby completed a first-round 10-1 win over debutant Jimmy Robertson with the minimum of fuss, having led 8-1 overnight.

Selby acknowledged that Robertson made it easy for him and said he expected Stephen Hendry in round two to present an entirely different challenge.

"It was a good experience and hopefully I'll get to come back again next year," said 24-year-old Robertson, who beat Ireland's 1997 world champion Ken Doherty in qualifying.

As for facing seven-times former champion Hendry, Selby said: "It's a tough draw. It's like Stephen's second home, the Crucible."

Meanwhile, Mark Williams tested the speed guns when he sprinted into a 7-1 lead against Jamie Cope as their first second-round match got under way yesterday.

The Welshman's potting exhibition was briefly interrupted when Cope pulled a frame back, but Williams reeled off a further three in a row inside 32 minutes to close in on the quarter-finals.

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