John Higgins hopes that his 6-2 win over Lee Walker at the Coral UK Championship today morning will help him turn a corner following a disappointing run of results.
By Mark Rawlinson
The victory over the Welshman was Higgins’ first win at the latter stages of a full ranking event for five months. That last triumph saw him beat Tom Ford at the Australian Goldfields Open in early July.
The Scot, who won this tournament in 1998, 2000 and 2010, hit top runs of 80 and 55 on his way to a last 64 spot, and is hoping the victory will change his recent fortunes especially with his spot at the forthcoming Masters on the line.
“In my last few tournaments, credit has to go to my opponents, Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu, because I’ve not actually done that much wrong in those matches,” he said. “I couldn’t beat myself up about it too much.
“As you get older, you don’t know if a win can kick-start you playing well again, I’m hoping that happens though and then I can try and do something because I haven’t done a lot in the last two or three years.
“Most of my career has been up and down – I’ve had a few tough spells and a few good spells. Obviously I’m still trying through this bad spell and the competitive desire is still there the same as always.
“This week is important for me because I think if results go against me, I probably won’t still be in the Masters and that would be a big blow. Normally it’s taken for granted that I’m in the Masters but I don’t deserve to be there if you’re not winning matches.”
Higgins’ second round opponent will be Stoke-on-Trent’s Jamie Cope. The Shotgun dispatched John Astley 6-2, hitting a top break of 115 in the final frame.
Elsewhere this morning, world number 19 Xiao Guodong enjoyed a comfortable win as he saw off Doncaster’s Ian Glover 6-1.
The 25-year-old hit a top break of 131 on course to victory over the fellow South Yorkshire-based player and is eager for a strong run in this week’s tournament.
“I played well because I was concentrating well,” said Xiao, who practises at the Star Academy in Sheffield. “I was very focussed for this game because everybody wants to win their games here.
“The first matches here are very hard because all of the top players don’t want to lose them. This week I will try hard, just like every tournament and try and go as far as I can.”
2003 UK Champion Matthew Stevens is also into the last 64 following 6-2 win over Liverpool’s Allan Taylor. Stevens hit a highest run of 132 and will face Gerard Greene next, after he beat Australian Vinnie Calabrese 6-2.
Martin Gould guaranteed his spot in the next round with a 6-4 win over Lee Page. There were also 6-4 victories for Ben Woollaston and Anthony McGill who beat Michael Wasley and Michael Georgiou respectively.