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Higgins Starts Well In ‘Fabulous’ Kochi

Defending champion John Higgins beat Ashley Hugill 4-1 in the first round of the Indian Open in Kochi and hopes he can rebuild his confidence after a difficult season.

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The world ranking event is taking place in the state of Kerala in the south of India for the first time, having previously been held in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam. It was due to take place in Kochi in September but was postponed due to flooding in the region.

Higgins and other top stars have now made it to the Grand Hyatt in Kochi and the Scot is impressed by what he has seen. “I’ll enjoy my time here,” he said. “The hotel is fabulous, all the players are singing its praises. The weather is fantastic and the food is lovely, I’ll have a nice vegetable curry tonight!”

On the table, the 43-year-old knocked in breaks of 89, 50 and 52 as he set up a last-64 match with Duane Jones. “I haven’t been playing great lately, confidence is low,” said Higgins, who beat Anthony McGill in the final in Visakhapatnam last season. “Any win can get you back to feeling good about the game. Ashley doesn’t have much experience on the TV table, but it was the same when I played Joe O’Connor at the Welsh Open and he beat me.”

Four-time World Champion Higgins hasn’t won a title this season and has suffered several shock defeats. “It doesn’t matter what you have won in the game, it is all about the here and now,” he added. “I have been down but I’m starting to feel better. If you win a match it gives you confidence. I haven’t been practising hard enough to deserve good results this season. If I was working hard and losing matches I’d be wondering why.

“Back home I’m changing my practice base so I’ll be playing more with Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill and hopefully that will give me impetus. If the three of us can play matches and bounce off each other – I know it will help me a lot.

“Every player near the end of his career would tell you it’s tough. I have been playing since I was eight years old, so 35 years. The table never changes, it’s not like golf where you can play different courses. But it’s your job, so you have to put the work in if you want to get results.”

Stuart Bingham knocked in runs of 83, 51 and 83 as he beat Peter Lines 4-1. Every win is vital for Bingham as he aims to gain a place in next month’s Coral Tour Championship – for more on that race click here.

“After the first couple of frames I got used to the conditions and then made some good breaks,” said English Open champion Bingham. “It has been a good season for me with just a few blips here and there. I’m happy with the way I’m playing.”

Shaun Murphy earned a much-needed victory, beating Lucky Vatnani 4-1 with a top run of 75. Eden Sharav came from 2-0 and 3-2 down to beat Michael Georgiou 4-3, taking a tense decider by potting the final blue and pink.

Oliver Lines fired runs of 89, 51, 58 and 93 in a 4-1 win over Fergal O’Brien while Joe Perry top scored with 125 in a 4-1 win over Ashley Carty.

Yan Bingtao made a 31 clearance in the deciding frame to beat Gerard Greene 4-3 while Jack Lisowski eased to a 4-0 win over wild card Himanshu Dinesh Jain with a top break of 94.