Wins for Higgins and Robertson

John Higgins comfortably saw off the meagre challenge of Matthew Stevens with a 6-2 victory in the first round of The Masters at Alexandra Palace in London.

The Scotsman was never really in trouble throughout the tie and will be thankful of a relatively easy passage to the quarter-finals in a tournament that has never been all that kind to him.

Higgins is a two-time winner of the prestigious invitational event but has been defeated at the first hurdle on no fewer than ten occasions.

However, all of those appearances came at Wembley – either at the Conference Centre of the Arena – and the world champion could be thankful for a change in venue for 2012 having admitted to being overawed by the previous arenas in the past.

Both Higgins and Stevens looked like they could be about to treat the enthusiastic crowd to an entertaining battle when they shared the opening two frames with confident looking displays.

But the latter never really settled, perhaps feeling the pressure of returning to the tournament for the first time since 2007 and having failed to win a single match here since he lifted the trophy himself twelve years ago.

At 3-1, Higgins missed a routine pink to the middle bag that allowed his Welsh opponent in to reduce the arrears to one but the 36 year-old reeled off the next three in quick fashion to advance to the next round – where he will face either Ali Carter or countryman Graeme Dott.

In the evening match, Neil Robertson weathered a storm before coming through strongly against UK Championship finalist Mark Allen.

Allen looked to be in control of the match when he led at 2-1 following two big breaks of 88 and 124.

The Northern Irishman was in early in the fourth and was 52 ahead when he missed a long green that allowed his Australian opponent in for a 77 clearance to square things up at the interval – a sequence of events that would become common throughout the clash.

The match up until that point had been an example of first-class potting and break building with both players providing pot success percentages of well over 90%

However, the next couple of frames were scrappy affairs, the first won by Allen before Robertson levelled again at 3-3.

It was here that the 2010 world champion took control of the encounter and a break of 100 gave him the lead for the first time since the opening frame.

Allen once again had the first chance in the eighth frame but failed to get over the winning line and Robertson dished for a two frame cushion before a ruthless 80 break in the last sealed the 6-3 triumph.

Things don’t get any easier for the Australian in the last eight with world number two Mark Williams his next challenge.

Tomorrow, two-time champion and number one in the world ranking Mark Selby takes on Stephen Lee in a repeat of the 2008 final while Graeme Dott faces ‘Captain’ Ali Carter as round one comes to a conclusion.

To view the complete 2012 draw click here.

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