/ Snooker

Higgins puts Lee out at Crucible

Updated: Thursday, 21 Apr 2011 21:36

John Higgins - through to second round
John Higgins - through to second round

John Higgins finished off Stephen Lee tonight to pass his first test at the Betfred.com World Championship.

The 35-year-old from Wishaw 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 saw him make 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 he missed out on a fifth century in the match at the end, a solid opening victory was secure.

Higgins now takes on Rory McLeod, the man accused by his first-round victim Ricky Walden of utilising 'painful' tactics which would kill the game if every player adopted them.

The world number one and world champion from 1998, 2007 and 2009 thinks 40-year-old Englishman McLeod probably did not deserve those comments.

'He's maybe been unfairly criticised,' Higgins said.

'There was lots of tension from Rory because he knew the TV cameras were on him and he wanted to do himself justice.

'I'm expecting Rory to come out and play a lot better in his second match. I can't afford to think it's an easy match because it's certainly not that.'

Higgins has played many slow opponents in his near 20-year career, and has no fears about taking on another.

'Obviously it's tougher but you just get on and play your match,' he said.

'If you play well and keep the other guy off the table the match can run smoothly.'

Higgins felt some tension before coming out into the arena, putting it down to familiar opening-match nerves.

He said: 'I was edgy but I'm delighted to get through.'

And he played down his status as favourite, adding: 'There'll be people thinking I am the man to beat and others who think others are the players to beat.'

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