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Betfred.com World Snooker Championship 2012 - Maximum for Hendry, Higgins beats Liang
Morning Session - John Higgins 5-4 Liang Wenbo - Martin Gould 3-6 David Gilbert
The first session of this year's World Championship started with defending champion John Higgins taking on former Crucible quarter-finalist Liang Wenbo and Martin Gould faced a tough test against Tamworth's David Gilbert.
4-times world champion Higgins got off to a slow start in his first frame against Liang, eventually coming through on the colours after 30 minutes. He then went 2-0 up with a break of 71. The next two frames were shared for Higgins to go 3-1 clear but then Liang stepped up in gears with a top run of 64 to go 4-4, with the Scotsman taking the last frame to lead 5-4 at the end of the session.
It wasn't quality snooker from either players with a couple of half centuries each. But it will be hard to pick a winner from the two from how they have played so far. You would have to favour Higgins with his vast experience but Liang produced some amazing pots in the session to keep in contention. They play to a conclusion tonight at 7pm.
In the match on table two, it was the man who rejoined this year via Q School who put in the best performance. Gilbert went 3-0 up top runs of 58, 72 and 55 then Pinner Potter Gould took the last frame before the interval 3-1. When they resumed Gould took the first frame but three further half centuries from Gilbert gave him a powerful 6-2 lead. Thankfully for Gould he managed to get the last one before the interval to keep him in the match at 6-3.
No one would of expected Gilbert to have played so well this season after dropping off the tour last year. He is now clear favourite to beat his seeded opponent and move through to the next round. Can the Power Snooker Masters champion recover his deficit when they finish their match at 10am tomorrow?
147 heaven for Stephen Hendry
Afternoon Session - Stuart Bingham 1-8 Stephen Hendry - Neil Robertson 7-2 Ken Doherty
Well what else can be said about the seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry? He performed strongly throughout his match against Stuart Bingham, but the Scotsman who had to qualify for the first time since 1988 produced a piece of Crucible magic in the 7th frame, an 11th career maximum break. He took the following two frames to finish with a commanding 8-1 lead ovr Bingham.
No one would expect that this match would have been so one sided, nevermind Hendry making another 147 (the last one at the Crucible came from him in 2009). It is hard to see Bingham coming back from here but stranger things have happend at the Sheffield venue. They finish their match at 7pm tomorrow.
Meanwhile on the other table another brilliant lineup took place between former world champions Neil Robertson and Ken Doherty. The Darlin' of Dublin nearly had a 147 himself in the second frame but missed the 14th red after running out of position. Frames were shared for Robertson to go 3-2 up but from there the Australian produced flawless snooker to make 106, 108 and 100 in the last three frames to take a strong 7-2 lead heading in second session which concludes tomorrow.
Evening Session - John Higgins 10-9 Liang Wenbo - Mark Allen 4-5 Cao Yupeng
John Higgins looked to have been struck by the curse of the Crucible which affects defending champions as he lost four frames in a row to find himself 8-6 behind to Liang Wenbo. However Higgins displayed his trademark resillience with a 133 total clearance in the next and then the next two were shared to ensure that the opening match of this year's championship would go down to a decider.
Liang had the first chance in the final frame but he sportingly cauled a foul on himself after potting a red. Two mini breaks followed for both players and the match went down to the colours. Liang missed a risky double allowing Higgins to respond with a find clearance to win the match 10-9 to set up a potentially mouth-watering tie with Stephen Hendry or Stuart Bingham in the second round. If he faces Hendry it will be surprisingly the first time they have ever played it other at the Crucible Theatre.
"I'm just drained," admitted Higgins. "When I went 8-6 behind I was trying not to give in, but I was thinking I've got nothing left, and I was really struggling. Liang was playing some great stuff, and I thought the writing was on the wall, I thought he was closing me out. I don't know how I've won it really, I probably didn't deserve to win it because I didn't play anywhere near well enough to merit winning that game. I just can't believe I've won.
"I fancied Liang clearing up in the last frame because he made a tremendous break to make it 9-9. Luckily for me he didn't. I don't know how many times I've come here in the first round and had a scrappy first game. In the first session I was lucky to be 5-4 in front, then I felt good tonight and I won a good frame to make it 6-4 and was in the balls to make it 7-4. But then the wheels came off and I just didn't have anything left. I've been struggling really badly this year and I didn't think there was anything there.
"I'm just delighted to win and it looks as if I'll be playing Hendry which would be great because I've never played him here." Quotes - World Snooker
On table 2 Chinese debutant Cao Yupeng showed the promise that won him four matches in the qualifiers to take an early 3-0 lead over Haikou World Open champion Mark Allen. Cao managed to extend his lead to 5-2 with a top run of 51 before Allen fought back to win the final two frames of the session with a top break of 88 to ensure he only trail his opponent 5-4. Their match resumes at 2.30pm tomorrow.