STEPHEN Lee became the fifth seeded player to suffer an early exit in this year’s World Championship in a 10-6 defeat to qualifier Andrew Higginson.
Lee, who won the PTC Grand Finals in March and has had good runs in big ranking tournaments this season, could only win two frames tonight as Higginson proved too good for the Wiltshire ace.
Leading 5-4 overnight, Higginson made a superb start winning the first frame of the final session to take a 6-4 lead. But a century break from Lee showed that he was not going to go down without a fight.
The next two frames were shared to give Higginson a 7-6 lead at the mid-session interval. But the Widnes qualifier managed to pull away from Lee after the restart with a superb break of 111 which put him back two frames in front.
Then an important 58 break put him on the verge of victory at 9-6 before a brilliant win was confirmed with a run of 61.
After the game a delighted Higginson said: “I’m over the moon to get through. Stephen’s been the most consistent player over the last three or four months, he’s been the best player in the world in my eyes, so to play him and to get one over on him is an achievement in itself, so I’m thrilled.
“It’s fantastic just to play here, to actually win and look up and see your friends and family it just makes it that little bit more special.”
Lee joins fellow seeds Martin Gould, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham to have been knocked out in this year’s opening round of the World Championship. Higginson meets Jamie Jones in the next round.
More drama took place on the other table tonight with world number one Mark Selby in serious danger of losing his first round match – trailing Barry Hawkins 6-3.
Selby, coming back from a neck injury, struggled to find his form throughout in a sluggish first session and never at one stage held the lead. It will be interesting to see tomorrow whether or not Hawkins can take the four frames he needs to cause another huge shock.
Another seed facing an early exit is former world champion Graeme Dott who had a session to forget losing eight out of nine frames against Joe Perry.
Trailing 8-1, it is going to take an unbelievable fightback and probably the best ever seen in Crucible history from Dott to keep alive his title hopes.
Earlier today a new-look Ronnie O’Sullivan booked his place into the second round beating Peter Ebdon 10-4 from his 7-2 lead overnight.
Ebdon will be disappointed to not have given the three-times world champion a closer game especially given the fact he won the China Open less than a month ago.
Last year’s runner-up Judd Trump began his Crucible campaign against Dominic Dale in the worst possible circumstances suffering from reported food poisoning. And the illness certainly had an effect early on as the Bristol potting machine trailed the Welshman 3-1 at the mid-session interval.
But Trump showed his true fighting spirit in the second part of the session winning four of the next five frames to take a slender 5-4 lead going into tomorrow’s final session. Trump will be relieved to have a lead given his illness prior to the match. Missed opportunity for Dale maybe?
And Welshman Ryan Day looked in good form this morning and took a 5-4 lead over China’s Ding Junhui. Given the way tournament has been so far, it would be foolish to right off a Day’s chances of holding out for what could be another first round shock.