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.