John Higgins and David Grace will face each other in the first round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for John Higgins
The fact that John Higgins has dropped to number eleven in the world rankings tells its own story.
Higgins was so far off the pace on the one-year rankings list that he failed to qualify for all three Duelbits Series tournaments.
A mini revival in the last couple of months has provided the Scot with a glimmer of hope to hold onto and build from.
Higgins triumphed for a record fourth time in the Championship League at Judd Trump’s expense, and he also reached the last eight of the WST Classic.
The four-time world champion hasn’t lost in the first round at the Crucible Theatre since 2014.
If there is ever a year when that might happen again, it’s this year. But write the Wizard of Wishaw off at your peril.
This season for David Grace
When David Grace began his qualifying campaign for the World Championship, he was scrambling for tour survival.
But with £20,000 of prize money and ranking points guaranteed, he has shot up the list and is well inside the crucial top 64 cut-off point.
Grace edged Sean O’Sullivan and Sam Craigie 10-8 before outplaying Andrew Higginson with a 10-5 performance on Judgement Day.
Although he suffered a lot of early exits in the first rounds of comps this season, it marked the third time he has won three matches on the spin, having reached the last 16 at both the Shoot Out and the WST Classic.
Grace, who last played at the Crucible in 2017, also enjoyed taking the scalp of world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Northern Ireland Open.
Higgins and Grace head-to-head
Higgins has played Grace three times since 2011 and has won all three, underlining his status as the heavy favourite.
This will be the first time the pair has met in the last 32 of a tournament, with their other three ties occurring in the earlier rounds.
It’s a bit unfair on Grace, but it is what it is – he represents one of the more favourable draws this year.
If he’s to ever make an impact at the Crucible Theatre, he might never have a better opportunity if he runs into the same kind of Higgins that has been underperforming for a year.
But the Wizard of Wishaw must be looking at this showdown and thinking that it offers him the chance of a tidy opener to get himself going and mount a charge at a fifth world crown.
Prediction: John Higgins 10-6 David Grace
Monday, April 17th – 2:30pm
Tuesday, April 18th – 2:30pm
Featured photo credit: WST