Higgins and White ease into second round

John Higgins set up a clash with Jamie Cope and aims to qualify for next year's Masters. Picture: Robert Perry

John Higgins set up a clash with Jamie Cope and aims to qualify for next year's Masters. Picture: Robert Perry

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JOHN Higgins knows his season is in need of ignition and the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ is hoping his first-round victory at the UK Snooker Championship will do the trick.

Higgins – a three-time UK champion – arrived at the Barbican in York this week off the back of recent defeats to Judd Trump, Li Hang, Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu.

But he brushed aside any hesitancy in his opening contest, beating Welshman Lee Walker 6-2 to move into this weekend’s second round, where he will meet Jamie Cope.

And Higgins is not just playing for form and confidence at the UK Championship – but also to keep himself in contention for next year’s Masters that follow swift in the New Year.

“Most of my career, as you probably know, it has been up and down,” said the 39-year-old. “I’ve had a few tough spells and a few good spells.

“As you get older you don’t know if a win can kick-start you and start playing well again but that’s what I’m hoping.

“I’m hoping to get a couple of wins and then I can go on and do something because I’ve not really done much in the last two or three years.

“I’m obviously low on confidence just now. In the last couple of tournaments the credit has to go to my opponents – Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu – who didn’t really do much wrong.

“That is a couple of defeats where you’ve not really done much wrong so you can’t beat yourself up about it. I can hopefully come here and have a run – that’s what I’m planning to do.

“Obviously I’m trying and the competitive desire is still there so that’s still the same as always. This week is important for me because I think if results go against me, I probably won’t be in the Masters and that would be a big blow.

“Normally it is taken for granted that you are going to be in the Masters. You don’t deserve to be there if you’re not winning matches and I’ve not been winning matches.”

Elsewhere, Anthony McGill overcame a slow start to his clash with Michael Georgiou, ranked over 50 places lower than him in the world, to join countryman Higgins in round two.

The 23-year-old eventually won 6-4 – after an 83 break hauled him back into the contest at 4-2 down – and he insists a hard-fought start will not wear him out for the next challenge.

“I actually look at it the other way,” said McGill. “I think it gives me more table time. I would love to win 6-0 but I quite enjoy the long matches as well.

“I was very lucky. He started off much better and I got a couple of little flukes at crucial points. Overall he played better in my opinion, no doubt, but the luck was with me.

“I will need to up it quite a considerable amount because I was just presenting Michael with easy opportunities there.

“If I do that as the tournament goes on and the standard of who I’m playing against gets better, I won’t get away with it.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy White won four frames in a row on his way to a 6-2 win over Dave Harold in their first-round clash.

White, the 1992 UK champion, scored a century in the sixth as he secured a second-round meeting with China’s Ding Junhui. Two-time champion Ding beat Irish amateur John Sutton 6-0.

White said: “It’s nice to play in a proper arena. This is the second biggest tournament we have. The first game was a bit scrappy until 2-2 then I played pretty well in the second half of the match. I will have to play very well to beat Ding but on my day I can still beat anybody and those games are why I still play the game. I can still play.”

l British Eurosport is the Home of Snooker, showing 19 tournaments per season including the World Championship, UK Championship, the Masters and all other ranking events. Available on Sky, Virgin Media & BT TV or online/mobile via eurosportplayer.com #eurosportsnooker.

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