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Higgins overcomes the crucible pressure to move forward

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Four-time world snooker champion John Higgins fights his way into the second round after winning six frames in the spin. Fellow Scotsman Anthony McGill prepares for the final meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan; last year’s finalist Kyren Wilson also through

Last update: 04/19/21 11:44 PM

John Higgins fought 7-4 down to defeat China’s Tian Pengfei in the World Snooker Championship

John Higgins blamed the stifling Crucible pressure for his poor performance, despite having fought his way into the second round of the World Snooker Championship with a 10-7 win over Chinese Tian Pengfei.

The four-time champion hit back 7-4 and won six frames on the spin. He found his form belatedly in a match that went twice over the allotted time by completing his victory over two consecutive centuries.

It may be the 45-year-old’s 27th appearance at the Crucible, but despite his colossal experience, Higgins admitted the weight of the venue’s history still couldn’t be ignored.

Higgins said, “It’s this place that does – I think I stopped breathing a couple of times out there. That’s what it does to you – the pressure can be so strong.

“It was a bad game of mine and I dodged a ball there because Tian had enough chances to beat me. I got him to my level and it’s a great relief.”

Anthony McGill went into the second round at the Crucible

Anthony McGill went into the second round at the Crucible

Higgins’ compatriot Anthony McGill proved that after his excruciating semi-final defeat eight months ago, he didn’t suffer from a Crucible hangover when he went into the second round with a 5-10 win over Ricky Walden.

McGill returned a narrow 5-4 lead over his former semi-finalist, building his lead with two consecutive breaks of 83 and 130 before a 98 from Walden cut the deficit.

But McGill responded to end the match three frames in a row, including two more half centuries to set up a round of 16 with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“I’m just going to try to play my own game,” said McGill. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the game who has the aura that Ronnie has – he’s the best ever and I’m really looking forward to it.

“I will not approach the game any other way. I can only play as well as I can and if the other person is too good, that’s fine.”

Kyren Wilson, who was beaten by O’Sullivan in the final last year, had to fight for a 10-8 first-round win over Gary Wilson.

Wilson was 5-1 down early on but struck back three centuries to wrestle the match in his favor and despite a valiant effort by the underdog, the Welshman took a cool 73 pause to avoid another decider.

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Steven Gregory