Champion Selby Survives Scare

Defending champion Mark Selby and Scot John Higgins set up a quarter-final clash with each other after contrasting victories on the opening day of the 2014 Masters.

Alexandra Palace in London was packed with almost 1500 people as Selby, three times a winner of the prestigious event over the last six years, began his quest for a fourth with an unconvincing display.

The ‘Jester from Leicester’ appeared to be in complete control of the contest when he raced into a 4-0 lead against Mark Davis at the mid-session interval.

But Davis, seeking his first ever win in the tournament having come up short in the opening round twice before, gallantly fought his way back into contention.

The 41 year-old, who has played the best snooker of his career over the past two or three campaigns, reduced the arrears to two frames and had the opportunity to narrow the gap even further before Selby seemed to regain control at 5-2.

However, a superb 136 from Davis continued his fightback, before he claimed the ninth frame on the black and he subsequently forced a decider with breaks of 62 and 61.

In a nervy last frame, both players had chances but Selby eventually fell over the line as he relied on his astute safety to patiently book his place in the last eight.

It was a mixture of relief for the 30 year-old and despair for Davis, who had come so close to completing an unlikely turnaround.

Selby will have to play much better if he is to add to his impressive tally of victories in the invitational event.

That said, the win is all that really matters and he has time to build on that on the practice table before his encounter with Higgins on Thursday.

Two-time champion Higgins had an easier time of it in his first round clash with Essex’s Stuart Bingham.

This was an unusual set of circumstances as Higgins was in fact the underdog going into the bout given the pair’s respective form of late.

Yet, a new cue and some renewed confidence helped the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ and he knocked in plenty of big breaks, including a 109, to see off a weak challenge from Bingham 6-2.

Despite boasting one of the best resume’s in the sport, Higgins has actually often struggled in the Masters and has failed to reach the final since 2006.

But he’ll fancy his chances against Selby and should he make the semi-finals then anything is possible.

There are two further intriguing ties in prospect for Monday’s action as the last 16 continues.

Judd Trump will put his renewed confidence to the test having reached the finals in both the Championship League groups he partook in last week as he takes on the in-form Marco Fu.

Fu disappointingly made an early exit in the UK Championship in York but earlier in the season he lifted the Australian Open trophy and was also runner-up to Ding Junhui in the lucrative International Championship.

These two also met in the Champion of Champions invitation with the Englishman coming out on top 4-1 in a rather dour affair.

In the evening session, Joe Perry, who beat Trump to win Group 2 of the Championship League, takes on Stephen Maguire.

That one is arguably even harder to call as both players are so inconsistent but Maguire’s experience would probably slightly edge it in his favour.

The full draw can be viewed here

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