Zhao Leads Higgins After First Session
Zhao Xintong holds a 5-3 lead over John Higgins heading into this evening’s concluding session in their first round tie at the Cazoo Tour Championship in Llandudno.
Zhao has enjoyed a breakthrough season which has seen him arrive in North Wales as number one seed for this elite eight player event. The 24-year-old won a maiden ranking and Triple Crown title at the Cazoo UK Championship in December and added a second piece of silverware at the German Masters in January.
Higgins narrowly qualified for this week in 8th position, but was boosted last weekend by ending ahead of Mark Allen on countback in the BetVictor Series standings. That earned the Scot a bumper £150,000 bonus.
Zhao and Higgins have already faced each other twice this season. They met at the Cazoo UK Championship, where Zhao edged through a 6-5 victor on his way to the title. Higgins had his revenge at the Cazoo Masters, when he beat Zhao 6-2 in the opening round.
It was Zhao who hit the front this afternoon with a run of 53 to take the opener, but he was immediately pegged back by four-time Crucible king Higgins who made 63 to level at 1-1.
Zhao edged back ahead by claiming the third on the final black, before Higgins restored parity heading into the mid-session at 2-2.
When play resumed Zhao fired out of the blocks with a century run of 124 to regain the lead. Higgins had looked set to claw level again when Zhao required a snooker in the sixth, but he got one and stole on the black to move 4-2 ahead. A second century run of 108 then saw Zhao establish a 5-2 cushion.
Higgins crucially won a tightly contested eighth frame to remain in touch at 5-3. They will return at 7:30pm to play the best of 19 encounter to a conclusion.