world champions

World Champions Advance in Sheffield

Former world champions Mark Selby and John Higgins successfully negotiated difficult opening tests at the World Snooker Championship on Monday.

The pair of former world number ones, who boast seven world titles between them, edged Zhao Xintong and Mark Davis respectively.

Their opponents couldn’t have represented a more stark contrast, with Zhao featuring at the Crucible Theatre for the first time and the experienced Davis becoming the first player to emerge from the qualifiers ten times.

Selby and Higgins have both been enduring difficult campaigns so far, failing to live up to their billings as top five players in the world rankings.

At the outset of the Leicesterman’s clash with Zhao, it appeared as though that pressure was going to become overwhelming as the 35 year-old quickly fell 5-1 behind.

But nerves began to creep into the debutant’s game and Selby, one of this era’s greatest battlers, eventually wore down the Chinese’s resistance.

Selby’s 10-7 triumph was matched by Higgins, who withheld a mini revival from his opponent to also progress to the second round unscathed.

The Scot, runner-up in both of the last two World Championships, enjoyed a 6-3 overnight advantage but sat in his chair as that lead was reduced to one frame come the final mid-session interval.

However, class prevailed and a brace of timely century breaks helped the 43 year-old into the last 16.

Shaun Murphy had earlier completed the first whitewash at the Crucible since 1992 when he completed a 10-0 rout of Luo Honghao in the morning session.

Murphy set up a battle of former world champions against Neil Robertson, who only lost a single frame in his initial test with Michael Georgiou at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s future in the tournament is in doubt after a terrific performance from James Cahill sees the amateur lead 5-4 at the midway point.

O’Sullivan, as is so often the case in Sheffield, looked disinterested and impatient, with his 23 year-old challenger duly taking full advantage.

The “Rocket” will undoubtedly still be fancied to go through but it is certainly turning into a much stiffer test than expected for a player who has reached the final in seven out of the ten tournaments he has contested this season.

In day three’s other action, David Gilbert made the most of his automatic spot, taking a 6-3 lead in a somewhat scrappy opening exchange with Joe Perry.

Those two ties will conclude on Tuesday while Stuart Bingham and Graeme Dott meet in another fixture of former world champions.

Judd Trump and Mark Allen make their entrances too against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Zhou Yuelong respectively.

Live coverage continues on the BBC, Eurosport, and on Facebook (selected countries).

Click here to view the draw.

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