World Champion Mark Selby recovered from the loss of the opening frame to beat Michael Holt 4-1 as the new 888.com World Grand Prix got underway in Lllandudno.
Selby is through to the last 16 of the £300,000 event and will now meet Martin Gould on Wednesday evening.
Holt won the first frame with a 42 clearance after Selby had missed a tricky green with two reds left. World number one Selby hit back with breaks of 110 and 95 then took a marathon hour-long fourth frame by clearing the table after Holt missed the final blue to a baulk corner. A run of 68 from Selby in frame five helped him progress to round two.
“It was a strange game and a bit of a struggle at times,” said Selby, who won the German Masters last month. “I scored when I got chances, but if Michael had potted the blue and pink to go 2-2 it could have been a different match and a different scoreline.
“It was a tough game because Michael’s one of my closest friends on the tour. He only lives 45 minutes from me and we practise together. Leading up to today, he didn’t text me and I didn’t text him – we didn’t want to give anything away.
“Hopefully I can build my form up leading up to the World Championship. We’ve got this event and then the Players Championship in Thailand and the China Open in Beijing, so there are still a few events to go. The travelling does take its toll over time, but it’s our choice whether we want to play in these tournaments. A lot of the overseas events have big prize money is and you want to be playing in them.
“I came to Llandudno a few years ago for the Premier League. The setup’s good, the arena’s good, and if I get towards the weekend there’ll be a full house in there and it’ll be a fantastic atmosphere.”
Leicester’s Selby, who has a four-month old daughter, added: “It’ll be nice to get through to Sunday, especially as I need to pay for nappies and clothes for the little girl so I need to keep winning as much as possible. Having a baby at home makes coming away a lot harder but at the same time it makes you more determined to do well.”
Gould, who has been battling illness caused by an ear infection in recent months, scored a 4-1 win over Alan McManus with top breaks of 59 and 71.
Stephen Maguire was in fine form in a 4-1 win over Xiao Guodong, compiling breaks of 108, 122, 60 and 52. He now meets Shaun Murphy or Peter Ebdon.
This week’s event does not count towards the world ranking list, which means Glasgow’s Maguire must defend his position in the top 16 for two more events – the Players Championship and China Open – to ensure his place at the Crucible for the World Championship in April. Michael White is hot on his heels having won the Indian Open – which Maguire did not enter.
“It was only when Michael got to the final in India that my dad told me he’s in the hunt for the top 16 – until then I hadn’t realised he was that close,” said Maguire. “There’s buttons between us now and it’s going to come down to me, Michael and Robert Milkins for the last place. If I don’t make the Crucible then it’s my own fault because I didn’t enter India. I took the chance – and I knew it could end up with me having to play three qualifying matches. It won’t make any difference to the way I approach Thailand and China because I try my hardest in every tournament anyway.
“I’m still in a strong position because I’m still ahead, so the other boys have to catch me. Honestly, if I have to play three qualifiers and I get through, I’ll be match sharp when I get to the venue. Obviously I would rather not. But if it comes down to it, hopefully I’ll win my three matches and if I do that I’ll be playing well going to the Crucible.”