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Blade Shows Sheffield Steel

Sam BairdSam Baird scored the best win of his career so far with a 10-7 victory over Michael White in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.

World number 59 Baird, nicknamed the Blade, slashed his way into the last 16 by winning the last four frames against 15th seed White. He will face Mark Selby or Robert Milkins next.

Baird, age 27 from Cullompton in Devon, has matched his best ranking event performance by reaching the last 16, and has won a match at the Crucible for the first time having lost 10-2 to Stuart Bingham on his only previous appearance in 2013.

Defeat was a low point in a difficult season for Welshman White, who admitted after the match that he has been suffering from depression.

White trailed 5-4 overnight but won the first frame today and added the next with a break of 88 to lead 6-5. He had chances in the next but eventually lost it when he went in-off playing safe on the final black, clipping the black thin on the top cushion only for the white to roll into a baulk corner.

White, winner of the Indian Open last season, regained the lead impressively with a break of 102, but he scored just 28 points in the remainder of the match. Baird rose to the occasion and fired breaks of 48, 54, 103 and 62 in winning the last four frames.

“This is right up there with the best moments of my career, I’m over the moon,” said Baird. “I didn’t think it was a great match all the way through, we were both under a lot of pressure. But I’m thrilled with how I finished it, I don’t really know where that came from. I felt more comfortable than I did last time.

“I don’t often go mad like that at the end of a match, I don’t know what happened to me, I think this place and the nerves means you forget everything else.

“Since I first played here three years ago I have been very keen to come back and I was disappointed to lose in the qualifiers a couple of times. I didn’t think I’d be back so soon, and I wanted to give a good account of myself this time.

“It is certainly my biggest pay day (£22,000) by miles, and it has put me up the rankings a fair bit. The money hasn’t sunk in yet.

“My family will be very proud, it’s not something you expect if you’re a lower ranked player. I haven’t seen them yet, they’ll probably be bouncing off the walls somewhere.

“If I play Selby next I don’t know what to expect other than an incredibly tough game. He’s world number one, he’ll be a big favourite against me over a long match, I’ll just try to put the nerves to one side.”

Baird chatted to a man in the crowd in between frames towards the end of the match and he joked: “He asked me what the table was like. It don’t mind chatting, it lightens the mood because it’s stressful out there. He was a nice guy.”

White said: “I just wasn’t good enough, and Sam played well. I put the hours into practice, I tried to go in with a positive attitude, but it’s just not happening at the moment. I had a breakdown in my concentration, but I won’t take anything away from Sam, he played well in the last four frames.

Sam Baird“It’s been a disappointing season because I had high expectations. On my day I believe I’m a top player. I’m not going to play for a month now, I’m going to reflect on the championship and the season. Players struggle from time to time, hopefully I can come back stronger.

“I do suffer a bit with depression, and stress can bring it on and make it worse. The honest truth is that I couldn’t focus out there at all.

“I don’t really know where to turn at the moment with my game, I’ve got to get my mental side right first before I can go anywhere.”