Sunday, 22 April 2012

Scotland's finest

Scotland's two greatest players took centre stage at the Crucible on a pulsating opening day of the World Championship.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Stephen Hendry and John Higgins - who boast an impressive 11 world titles between them - brought the Sheffield crowd to its feet, not for the first time, by doing what they do best.

Seven-time champion Hendry is known as the King of the Crucible and set another record with a stunning 147 against Stuart Bingham.

This makes him the first qualifier to hit a maximum at the venue and it came in a session where he roared to an 8-1 lead with a vintage display, reminiscent of his dominance in the 1990s.

The fine break also takes him level with Ronnie O'Sullivan on 11 televised 147 breaks.

Watch this moment of magic again here....

This excellent session left many people asking where this sudden burst of form has come from.

While it's obvious Hendry still gets a huge buzz from playing at the Crucible, it's also conceivable he could be benefiting from life outside the top 16.

Picture by Monique Limbos
The pressure is off him and he can get back to playing snooker rather than continuously looking over his shoulder.

Four-time champion Higgins also wowed the Sheffield contingent, albeit with less swagger.

He delivered a trademark combative performance to beat Liang Wenbo 10-9 in a dramatic opening match.

Higgins - clearly suffering from the nerves of starting a tournament as the defending champion - was 8-6 down at one stage of the match but rallied to win four of the last five frames and get over the line.

John has struggled this season without adding a trophy to his cabinet since he triumphed here a year ago but this tournament matters to him more than any and he's always maintained that a first round win could spark him into life.

I believe Higgins will be all the better for this hard-fought opening test and he now has the three-session matches to get his teeth into.

As much as people write off Higgins for title, he still needs beating and that is no easy task over these longer matches. He's the biggest fighter of them all.

It was a great first day and, for Scotland, it really couldn't have been a better start.

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