Hossein Vafaei said he thrives under pressure after beating Mark Selby 6-4 in the first round of the UK Championship on Tuesday.
The Iranian, who won the Snooker Shoot Out in February and is now on the cusp of a place among the world’s top 16 for the first time, compiled breaks of 119, 88, and 80 to defeat the three-time champion.
Selby contributed a brace of centuries of his own but couldn’t get back on level terms after losing the first two frames following the mid-session interval to trail 4-2.
Vafaei is currently 18th in the provisional world rankings and could potentially burst into the top 16 with a run to the semi-finals at the Barbican Centre.
It would be an opportune time to make his move into the elite bracket, with the Masters spots being decided after the conclusion of this event.
“It was a tough match. Everyone knows how tough Mark Selby is to play against,” Hossein Vafaei told the World Snooker Tour after his victory.
“He’s such a tough opponent to be honest, you don’t want to get Mark Selby in the draw in one of the biggest tournaments in the calendar.”
“When I started I wasn’t positive at all, I was thinking a lot, and I was feeling like my technique is wrong.
“At the end, I managed to find a good technique and not think about the technique. After that, I started playing well – it wasn’t easy at all, it was so tough out there.
“I used to be an attacking player, but now I just play what is in front of me. It’s like chess – if we do something wrong, then in one second everything can change.
“If you want to get to the top, you have to play your best against them. Otherwise, you’re never going to get there, and it’s as simple as that.
“After the interval, I saw people texting me and I saw lots of positive energy. I started fighting again for my people to make them happy.
“That was the reason why I played better after the interval. I like being under pressure, I enjoy it, to play in front of a big crowd.”
- CLICK HERE: Vafaei wins the 2022 Snooker Shoot Out
Vafaei will encounter Jack Lisowski in round two after the latter secured a more comprehensive 6-1 triumph over Xu Si.
Lisowski has a significant amount of ranking points to defend in the next couple of months so will be looking for a strong week in order to safeguard his spot higher up the rankings.
The remaining two fixtures on day four both went all the way to deciding frames.
Judd Trump survived a topsy-turvy affair with Xiao Guodong, winning the eleventh and determining frame with a vital run of 88.
Later, 2008 champion Shaun Murphy set up a last-16 clash against Trump after fighting back from behind to deny David Gilbert in what was a high-scoring affair.
The second round of the UK Championship gets under way on Wednesday, with the in-form Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen among those back in action.
Featured photo credit: WST