TWO of the green baize game’s greats will go head-to-head today at snooker’s greatest stage.
Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry and John Higgins, the four-time Crucible winner and current defending champion, will clash in the last 16 stage of this year’s £1.1million event.
But amazingly, despite sharing 11 world titles between them, the all-conquering Scottish compatriots have NEVER played each other at the Crucible.
And today’s meeting will also be the first-time two players with as many world titles have ever played each other at the Crucible.
“It will be an occasion, especially as we haven’t played each other there before,” revealed Hendry, who pocketed a memorable maximum 147 break in his impressive 10-4 first round win over Stuart Bingham. “In terms of who has done what recently, John will be favourite. This is a match between two players who have achieved a lot in the game, and I remember certain matches against Steve (Davis) for that reason.
“There were a couple of semi-finals at the Crucible, I think that was 1-1, and a final of the UK Championship when it was over the best of 31 frames. We are not competing all the time, or on a level playing field and that’s what I would prefer. But the fact that I am playing John who I have never met in Sheffield does make it more special.”
And Higgins, who ground out a dramatic 10-9 final frame opening win over Chinese qualifier Liang Wenbo, can’t wait a showdown with one of his arch-rivals.
Higgins said: “We’ve never played each other at the Crucible, so I can’t wait for that one because it would be a great match.”
Ali Carter, the 2008 Crucible runner-up, will face Judd Trump, last year’s beaten finalist, in the last 16 stage tomorrow after he beat qualifier Mark Davis 10-2. Ahead 8-1 overnight, Carter needed just 45 minutes to win thanks to breaks of 44, 48 and 132.
Australian Neil Robertson, the 2010 winner, fought back from 3-1 after mid-session interval to lead 5-3 overnight against David Gilbert.
Stephen Maguire returns today with a healthy 5-3 lead over Englishman Joe Perry after the first session of their last 16 clash.
Perry pocketed breaks of 115, 68 and 82, but Maguire edged ahead thanks to two breaks of 101 and further runs of 52, 65 and 88.
Welshman Mark Williams, the two-time world champion, booked his place in the second round with a 10-6 victory over Chinese qualifier Liu Chuang.
Result: 1st rnd: Mark Williams beat Liu Chuang 10-6
Latest: Neil Robertson leads David Gilbert 5-3, Stephen Maguire leads Joe Perry 5-3.
Today: 2nd rnd matches (best-of-25 frames): - 10am: John Higgins v Stephen Hendry, Robertson 5-3 Gilbert - both max of 8 frames; 2.30pm: Joe Perry 3-5 Stephen Maguire, Ryan Day v Cao Yupeng - both max of 8 frames; 7pm: Higgins v Hendry - max of 8 frames, Robertson v Gilbert - to a finish, max of 9 frames.