When Ronnie O'Sullivan Walked Out On Stephen Hendry | 2006 UK Championship Quarter Final

Crucible Inspires Higgins To Thrash Grace

John Higgins enjoyed his most one-sided Cazoo World Championship first round victory in seven years as he beat David Grace 10-3 to reach the last 16 at the Crucible.

Match schedule

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Higgins’ first world title in 1998, and he went on to lift the trophy again in 2007, 2009 and 2011, as well as appearing in four other finals. The Scot is recognised as one of the all-time great Crucible competitors, and while he has had a poor season by his standards, he has the capacity to become a different animal in Sheffield.

The last time Higgins won 10-3 in the first round was against Ryan Day in 2016

This was perhaps his best display of the season as he fired two centuries and six more breaks over 50, offering Grace no chance of an upset. Higgins goes through to the second round for the 25th time and will face either Kyren Wilson or Ryan Day on Sunday and Monday.

The Wishaw cueman, who turns 48 next month, is yet to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event this season, but believes a recent amendment to his technique could revive his fortunes.

“A few weeks ago I found something which I am happy with,” said the tenth seed. “Until you’re out in that cauldron and you are bang under it against one of the top boys, that’s when you find out what you’ve got in the tank. I’m delighted I’m through and I can look forward to the next game.”

Higgins led 7-2 overnight, having made breaks of 51, 98, 66, 67 and 90 in the first session. He started today with a run of 114, then in frame 11 potted six reds with blacks before missing a difficult plant on a red. Grace took advantage with an 83 clearance to make it 8-3, but Higgins compiled a run of 97 in the 12th to go six ahead. And he finished in style with a 124; that was his 166th century at the Crucible, a tally trumped only by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 199.

“David never settled and I was able to build a big lead yesterday,” Higgins added. “You need to make breaks here because it’s going to get harder as you get through the rounds, you need to have bursts where you do some damage, to counter what the other guy is going to do to you. As you get older, it’s good to win matches quickly and easily, that will help you later in the tournament.

“I’m proud to still be coming here, 25 years after I first won it, and I feel as if I’m playing better stuff than ever.”

Yorkshireman Grace said: “I didn’t settle at any stage. Credit to John because he was never going to let me into the game, he is one of the all time greats and he comes alive here. He was hitting the white so nicely and putting it wherever he wanted to. I was determined to enjoy being at the Crucible, even though I got pumped!

“If I had lost my first qualifying match I would have been off the tour, so to get to the Crucible and get into the top 64, I feel as if it has been my best season in terms of consistency.”

On the other table, world number 21 Anthony McGill secured a 6-3 lead over 2019 World Champion Judd Trump at the conclusion of their opening session.

McGill has only beaten Trump once in their eight meetings on the professional circuit. The last time they met was at the 2022 World Championship and Trump prevailed 13-11 on that occasion.

Trump started the brighter this afternoon with a break of 89 in the first and he then moved 2-0 ahead. However, the response from McGill was swift and contributions of 77 and 119 saw him restore parity at 2-2.

The Ace in the Pack did edge back in front by taking the fifth, but it would prove to be his last frame of the session. Breaks of 87, 60 and 59 saw McGill take three on the trot to lead 5-3. The last of the session came down to a battle on the brown. Glasgow’s McGill eventually won it and took the frame to end the afternoon 6-3 ahead.

They return tomorrow from 2:30pm for the final session.