Mark Selby summoned some of his best snooker to overturn a first session deficit and beat Zhao Xintong 10-7 at the Betfred World Championship.
Three-time World Champion Selby has arrived in Sheffield this week with less of a media spotlight than he has become accustomed to. He recently lost his world number one spot, which he had occupied since February 2015, to Ronnie O’Sullivan. This is also the first time since 2016 that he hasn’t entered the event as defending champion.
China’s talented 22-year-old Zhao has turned his fledgling career around over the last 12 months. He dropped off the tour at the end of last season. However, he immediately regained professional status at Q School and has since reached a maiden ranking semi-final at the 2018 China Championship and clinched a Crucible place for the first time.
Debutant Zhao impressed in this morning’s session, taking a 5-1 lead. However, Selby did claim the last two frames to head into this evening’s play just two behind at 5-3.
15-time ranking event winner Selby then stamped his authority from the off in the concluding session. Breaks of 62 and 131 saw the Jester from Leicester take the opening two frames to restore parity at 5-5. They then traded frames and headed into the mid-session locked together at 6-6.
When the pair returned, Selby took the lead for the first time in the match thanks to a break of 83. Zhao levelled at 7-7, but three frames on the bounce saw Selby over the line to reach the second round, where he will face Gary Wilson.
Selby said: “I’m over the moon to get through. I knew it was going to be a tough game when the draw came out. I’ve played him a few times now and he’s such a laid back guy, nothing really fazes him. No matter what the occasion is, he’s going to play his attacking game. Some of the balls he potted out there were unbelievable.
“The first round is always a potential banana skin, no matter who you play. You’ve always got the nerves at the Crucible in the first match. You’ve just got to get that first match out of the way and you feel as though you’re part of the tournament then.”
Meanwhile, 16th seed David Gilbert took a 6-3 lead over Joe Perry in a match which plays to a finish from 2.30pm on Tuesday.
Gilbert, who has broken into the top 16 for the first time this season, started strongly by taking the first four frames with top breaks of 51 and 75. Perry pulled one back with a 68 then won the sixth for 4-2.
An excellent 53 clearance gave Gilbert the seventh frame and he made a 56 in the next to go 6-2 up. Perry, a semi-finalist here in 2008, won the last of the session with a run of 68 to give himself hope. The winner faces Mark Williams in the last 16.