Higgins proves form is temporary but class is permanent

John Higgins was superb in his first round win over Robert Milkins
John Higgins was superb in his first round win over Robert Milkins

Champions deliver when it really matters – and John Higgins did exactly that here at the Crucible yesterday.

The Wizard of Wishaw had not won a ranking tournament for two and a half years before he claimed the Welsh Open crown a couple of months ago.

And on the evidence of his emphatic 10-5 first round win over qualifier Robert Milkins, it looks as though the four-time world champion has really got the fire in the belly to win a fifth Crucible title.

“That’s the best I’ve probably I’ve played here [at the Crucible] for three years,” reflected Higgins.

“But I’ve got be honest, I’ve had a few sleepless nights because I wasn’t winning and didn’t think I’d get back in the winners’ circle.

“Luckily for me it happened at the Welsh Open and it’s given me a little bit of a boost.

“You definitely doubt yourself, especially when you’re having dark times, but hopefully now there’s some good times. I know what it takes to win, but who knows whether I’ve got it in me.”

Higgins resumed 6-3 up after the opening session and wasted no time at all in pocketing breaks of 77, 75, 69 and 106 to triumph.

Higgins added: “There’s probably more contenders out there than me to win it, but I know what it takes to win it and that obviously helps.

“It would be amazing to win this title again. To win a fifth world title and go alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan, well that would be beyond my wildest dreams.

“The fire is definitely still there.”

Earlier in the day compatriot Graeme Dott produced a fine comeback to keep his titles hopes alive.

The 2006 Crucible champion bravely fought back from 3-1 and 7-6 down to beat Englishman Ricky Walden 10-8 to deservedly book his place in the second round yesterday.

“You sometimes doubt whether you can do it [perform at the Crucible] and at 37, you maybe question is this my last time?” said Dott.

“I wasn’t here last year. It was a horrible feeling not being here, it really hurt. But it’s nice to know that I can still do it.”

Hong Kong potter Marco Fu booked his place in the second round with a 10-6 victory over qualifier Jimmy Robertson, while Barry Hawkins, the 2013 Crucible runner-up, opened up a commanding 7-2 lead over qualifier Matthew Selt.

Aussie ace Neil Robertson, the 2010 world champion, powered into a 7-2 lead over Welshman Jamie Jones after the first session of their first round match.

Robertson pocketed a tournament high break of 143 and further runs of 52, 109 and 94 to move with touching distance of a comfortable victory.

Results: John Higgins 10-5 Robert Milkins, Marco Fu 10-6 Jimmy Robertson, Ricky Walden 8-10 Graeme Dott. Latest scores: Barry Hawkins 7-2 Matthew Selt, Neil Robertson 7-2 Jamie Jones, Anthony McGill 10-9 Stephen Maguire.