IT COULD be the changing of the guard this week as legend John Higgins will take on up-and-coming fellow Scot Anthony McGill in the fourth round of the UK Snooker Championship – although the former admits he has plenty more left in him yet.
Higgins cruised past 2003 champion Matthew Stevens 6-2 on Monday at the York Barbican, racing into a 5-1 lead with breaks of 81 and 128 in the showpiece tie of the third round.
But the key turning point in the match was a 62 break from the Scot to take the fourth frame from 61-0 down, and move to 4-1 up rather than being pegged back to 3-2.
The clash was a repeat of the 1998 final, where Higgins also came out on top winning 10-6, and the two former champions rolled back the years to produce some enthralling snooker.
“I’ve felt good the last few matches I’ve played,” said the 39-year-old. “I’m just trying to get my timing back and it worked well again out there. There were two frames where I cleared up and they were the turning points in the game.
“If you’ve got any chance of winning events you’ve got to do that, because you’re going to come up against players who will put in big breaks against you.
“My confidence is slowly getting better. It’s going to get harder moving through the rounds but I definitely feel good.
“Anthony is showing the potential that we all knew he had in Scotland, so it will be a good game.
“I know him very well and he’ll be a top player for years to come. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and practises a lot with Alan McManus, who he’s learning a lot from. You’d have to think he’s the future of Scottish snooker now. Him and Fraser Patrick as well are the boys we’re pinning our hopes on.”
McGill came through a marathon third-round encounter with Nigel Bond, who grabbed the headlines on Saturday after turning around a 5-0 deficit against world No 5 Barry Hawkins.
The 23-year-old McGill fell 4-1 behind, but recovered and a break of 76 in the deciding frame sealed the victory to set up his dream clash with four-time world champion Higgins.
He said: “I cannot wait to play John. I’m like a kid at Christmas. He’s an absolute icon and obviously I’ve grown up watching him.
“It will be a very special day for me. He can pot anything, and I know his results haven’t been so great recently but I don’t think he’s on the decline at all.
“He’s a great inspiration to young Scottish players. If a guy from ten minutes up the road can do it then you think there’s no reason you can’t. We all look up to him.”
It was not all good news for Scotland’s stars, however, as Fraser Patrick fell 6-3 in the third round to a strong Judd Trump performance. The 29-year-old shocked higher-ranked Ryan Day and Jamie Burnett in the previous rounds, but could not rediscover that form as Judd blasted through the opening three frames with breaks of 85, 129 and 130.
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