World Snooker Championship 2013 - Davis & King on the mark in Sheffield
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Mark Davis is having the best season of his career so far, reaching three ranking event semi-finals (including the UK Championship), and was feeling confident coming in to this year's Betfair World Snooker Championship.
He faced four-times champion John Higgins who since losing to Davis 6-5 in the quarter-finals of the UK Championship, hasn't looked the same and has struggled for consistancy. It was Sussex's Davis who got off to the best start yesterday, dominating scoring and finishing with a comfortable 6-3 advantage.
When they resumed tonight, Higgins took two of the next three frames with runs of 92 & 69 to reduce the deficit to 7-5. Davis responded in style with a 81 before winning the next and then eventually seeing off the Scot with a 87 in the final frame and claim a terrific 10-6 victory.
For Higgins I believe a few months rest will do him a world of good and I can see him being dangerous again next season. Davis though will be thrilled to have played so well at the Crucible and will no doubt fancy his chances against Stuart Bingham or Sam Baird in the next round.
"It's the biggest win of my career so far," said journeyman Davis. "He did miss some balls that he probably would not have normally missed and it is surprising. For the majority of the match I punished him."
"When I get a chance I have to try and take it," he added. "Today nothing really went for him and he was knocking reds in unintentionally, he did that twice at least. I played well throughout the match apart from one or two shots, and I was pleased with that."
On the other side of the Crucible there was another Scot struggling, this time it was Welsh Open champion Stephen Maguire. He faced the world no.70 from Thailand Dechawat Poomjaeng who had already beaten Maguire in their only previous encounter, two years ago at a PTC.
It was the young former world amateur champion that got the better start of the day, making runs of 72, 59, 60 & 56 on the way to a 5-2 lead before Maguire pipped the last frame of the session with two small contributions to keep himself at the match, only 5-3 behind.
Northern Ireland's top pro Mark Allen had also been having a pretty decent season, having successfully defended his World Open title in China and winning a PTC at the end of 2012. He was full of confidence coming in to his match against experienced Essex cueman Mark King, but it didn't go his way.
The first four frames were shared for them to be 2-2 at the interval, before King turned on the pressure and made top contributions of 67, 74 and 50 to take a narrow 5-4 advantage going in to tonight's session.
Allen came out the blocks fastest, winning three on the bounce to take a 7-5 lead. King ultimately responded with breaks of 74, 89, 81 to go 9-8 and then managed to make two small contributions in the last frame to send the Antrim man home at the first round for the second time in two years.
King has had an up and down season, so to see him to so well and to record so many decent breaks it shows signs of good things to come for him. He next faces either the in-form Ding Junhui or Alan McManus in the next round.
"I've said it a million times, on my day I can beat anyone," said veteran King. "In the past I have put myself under pressure, so this time I came here with no expectation and just tried to relax and enjoy it.
"I twitched on the pink in the last frame and thought I was going to throw up. But I held myself together and when I potted match ball I nearly started crying. When he won the 12th frame to go 7-5 up he gave it the fist and that spurred me on."
2006 champion Graeme Dott had his match postponed with Peter Ebdon earlier on in the day due to slow play. They managed to get on the first available table in the evening and it was the Scot who broke away at 6-6, recording breaks of 50 and the only century of the match (a 100) to take four frames in a row and come out a relieved 10-6 winner.
"I'm just delighted to win," admitted Dott. "It's always very tough against Peter. When he came from 6-2 down to 6-6 I was getting worried because the match was slipping away, then I won a massive frame to go 7-6."
His next match will yet again be another clash of world champions as Dott takes on Shaun Murphy, a game that I feel Dott will be able to get stuck in better and perform at his natural best.
Last up we saw a solid debut from young Leicester potter Ben Woollaston who was taking on last year's beaten finalist Ali Carter. From making a 91 break to go 3-1 up at the interval, the PTC quarter-finalist would of fancied his chances to extend his lead over his more experienced opponent.
But it was German Masters champion Carter that dominated the remaining of the scoring, making top breaks of 84, 95 and 52 to win four of the remaining five frames and take a slender lead going in to tomorrow's final session. One that i'm sure both will be desperate to get off to a great start in.