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Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Saturday, 17 April 2010 21:52 UK

John Higgins beats Barry Hawkins at World Championships

World Snooker Championship
Date: 17 April-3 May Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Coverage: Live coverage each day on BBC Two, BBC Red Button and BBC Sport website (UK only), updates on BBC Radio 5 Live. Full TV schedule

John Higgins
Higgins is the defending world champion

By Mark Ashenden at the Crucible

Defending champion John Higgins took some time to find his rhythm before he beat Barry Hawkins 10-6 in the first round of the World Championships.

The 34-year-old Scot, looked flat and trailed 4-5 but hit back to win four successive frames as he eased through.

Star of the day in Sheffield was Mark Allen, who just missed a maximum 147, ending the day 8-1 up against Tom Ford.

Stephen Hendry leads Zhang Anda 5-4 after the 18-year-old fought back against the seven-time world champion.

Mark Selby and 1997 champion Ken Doherty were involved in a titanic struggle on Saturday evening, with Selby eventually pulling away to lead 6-3 overnight following two century breaks.

Joe Perry, fighting to retain his top 16 place, also impressed and goes into Sunday 7-2 ahead of luckless Michael Holt.

The volcanic cloud disruption impacted on the biggest date on the snooker calendar with two referees missing the start, while Allen was forced to get a ferry on his journey to Sheffield from Northern Ireland.

As the day began a packed Crucible arena witnessed the early signs of what to expect from the reign of new chief Barry Hearn.

Snooker's new supremo had promised razzmatazz for the World Championships and he did not disappoint, as disco lights flashed when Higgins walked out to upbeat Paolo Nutini tune Pencil Full Of Lead first to face 17th seed Hawkins, who had never won a match at Sheffield's famous theatre.

Higgins is looking to become the first player to win successive world titles since Hendry (1992-1996). but it was a sloppy opening for the man guaranteed to be world number one next season.


Seven minutes passed before a ball was potted as Higgins edged a nervy first frame but Hawkins knocked in breaks of 51, 69 and 51 to grab a surprising - but not undeserved - 3-1 lead.

The three-time world champion showed typical grit though and clawed his way back to 3-3 with a highest break of 61.

A tense final session was ensured with the left-hander from Kent, making his fifth consecutive Sheffield appearance, nabbing the eighth with a 58 before his opponent reduced the lead to 4-5 after breaks of 52 and 44.

After the interval it was a very different Higgins as the Scots took the first four frames, thanks to breaks of 63, 121 and 67.

Hawkins looked shell-shocked and, although he won the 15th, it was a relieved Higgins who wrapped up a hard-earned victory with a 29.

"There were a couple of big turning points and he'll be kicking himself," said Higgins. "I was happy only being 5-4 behind because Barry was by far the better player.

"I was a bag of nerves all day. In the first session I was all over the place. I knew Barry would be feeling the pressure as well so sometimes you just hope the guy misses and luckily he did that."

Saturday's fireworks came from the lightning cue of world number 11 Allen, from Antrim.

He blew away Leicester debutant Ford to lead 8-1 in a thrilling encounter which included a breath-taking surge towards a maximum 147 break, before stopping short with all the reds sunk.

Last year's semi-finalist struggled for position after potting the final black and, as Higgins and Hawkins paused mid-frame on the neighbouring table to view the finale, Allen had to wave goodbye to the £147,000 on offer after being snookered on the green.

The 26-year-old Ford, finally stepping out of the shadows of old schoolmate Mark Selby, made a nerveless 59 with his first ever visit to a Crucible table, only to see Allen steal the frame with a 67.

Mark Allen

Mark Allen falls short of 147

More drama followed in the fourth when Ford cleared up, leaving the frame to be decided by a re-spotted black, but had to endure another loss to trail 4-0.

That soon became 7-0 and the first Crucible whitewash for 19 years threatened, following John Parrott's 10-0 win over Eddie Charlton, but Ford knocked in a sparkling 107 to induce a similar celebration to Dennis Taylor's in the 1985 final.

Saturday afternoon witnessed an intriguing battle between Hendry and Anda - the elder statesman eyeing an eighth world title with the Chinese sensation making a first appearance in any major tournament.

The world number 10, last crowned world champion in 1999, was given an almighty scare by the player based at Sheffield's Academy and known as "Mighty Mouse".

The reinvigorated Scot, who reached the semis in 2008 and quarters last year, cruised to the first four frames, but Anda was far from overwhelmed and hit back with breaks of 83, 69 and 64.

Anda was at last exhibiting the skills he unleashed on 1992 world champion John Parrott to come through last month's qualifiers, and is still right in this match after finishing the day 5-4 down.

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see also
Higgins nervous ahead of Crucible
13 Apr 10 |  Snooker
O'Sullivan handed tricky opener
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Davis & Taylor stage 1985 rematch
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Latest scores and order of play
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