Walker no match for Higgins

Walker no match for Higgins

Cue sports legend John Higgins of Scotland warmed up for the bigger challenges of the Indian Open World Ranking Snooker Tournament in his inimitable style, sweeping away young upstart Joel Walker in the opening round here on Tuesday.

Taking around 30 minutes to settle down -- the time he took to win a cat and mouse opening frame -- the four-time world champion soon kicked into overdrive without warning, scoring a polished 4-0 (67 (49)-10, 68-11, 76 (76)-0, 73 (61)-0) victory in just little over an hour.

World No 5 Stephen Maguire too got his campaign off to a smooth start, easing past Paul S Davison 4-1 (75 (75)-1, 27-42, 88 (83)-16, 76 (68)-3, 73 (72)-2) while Anthony McGill, ranked 49, caused the day’s biggest shock, knocking out World No 7 Barry Hawkins (69 (52)-0, 132 (123)-0, 77-6, 0-64, 103 (103)-13) as the Scots enjoyed a glorious day in the office.

In Monday’s late night first-round action, China’s Ding Junhui, one of the star attractions at the tournament along with Higgins, appeared in all sorts of trouble before hauling himself out with a hard-fought 4-3 (7-75 (70), 68-44, 70-9, 22-70, 22-60, 70 (51) -19, 89 (88) -4) victory over Barry Pinches.

Despite not enjoying the best of form in the recent past due to plenty of ‘tinkering’ with his cue, Higgins arrived here as one of the favourites for the 300,000-pound event. A crowd favourite wherever he goes, thanks to his mind-boggling 25 ranking titles in a glittering two-decade-old career, Higgins appeared a little rusty in the opening frame against an opponent playing at a TV table for the first time in his career.

Not willing to give an inch in the tactical game where emphasis was on safety more than attack, 19-year-old Walker, rated highly by Ronnie O’Sullivan himself, fought tooth and nail with the 38-year-old Higgins. However, it was Higgins who drew first blood after he snookered Walker behind the green ball near the baulk line. In trying to emerge from the trap, Walker threw the frame open as the bunch lie scattered at the top. Higgins cashed in on it brilliantly, smashing a break of 49 points before missing a red to centre left pocket while trying to take the cue ball to the bottom. Leading 67-3, Higgins pretty much had the frame wrapped up and he did so quickly after potting the final two reds.

Having got a taste of the table and conditions, Higgins was now in no mood to hang around, raising his game several notches as Walker was reduced to a mere spectator.

He conjured minor breaks of 27 and 26 in the second frame as shots began to flow from his cue. He smashed a 76 in the third and blasted a 61 in the fourth as Walker, after making one visit to the table, then shook hands with Higgins as the veteran scored a mini 12-pointer.

“The tables here are the best I’ve seen this season,” said a delighted Higgins after the win. “It really helped me play well. I’m delighted with the start and looking forward for a strong show.”

First round results: Rod Lawler w/o Allister Carter; Michael White w/o Anthony Hamilton; Anthony McGill bt Barry Hawkins 4-1 (69 (52)-0, 132 (123)-0, 77-6, 0-64, 103 (103)-13); Gary Wilson bt Dominic Dale 4-0 (78 (66)-14, 65-53, 125 (125)-6, 92 (72)-39); Robbie Williams w/o Kyren Wilson; Marco Fu w/o Tony Drago; Mark Williams w/o Yu De Lu; Stephen Maguire bt Paul S Davison 4-1 (75 (75)-1, 27-42, 88 (83)-16, 76 (68)-3, 73 (72)-2); Andrew Higginson bt Jamie Burnett 4-2 (75-7, 70-5, 67 (58)-33, 3-58, 0-86 (86), 68-1); John Hgiggins bt Joel Walker 4-0 (67 (49)-10, 68-11, 76 (76)-0, 73 (61)-0).
On Monday: Mark Davis bt Elliot Slessor 4-2 (35-97 (81), 66-62, 61-70, 89-13, 48-36, 78-8); Hammad Miah bt Chen Zhe 4-3 (81-1, 97 (65) -11, 29-84, 9-73 (57), 36-71, 68-13, 75-4); Ding Junhui bt Barry Pinches 4-3 (7-75 (70), 68-44, 70-9, 22-70, 22-60, 70 (51) -19, 89 (88) -4); Liang Wenbo bt David Morris 4-2 (64-25, 66 (55) -32, 105 (74) -6, 8-86 (61), 33-70 (69), 78 (78) -0).

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