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John Higgins crashes out

SHEFFIELD: John Higgins became the first major casualty of this season's World championship when he went down to a convincing 10-4 first round defeat against unheralded qualifier Mark Selby at the Crucible Theatre here on Sunday.

Higgins, who won the title in 1998, had been strongly fancied to go all the way at this year's tournament having already taken the Grand Prix and Masters titles this season.

But the Scot, 6-3 down on Saturday, was unable to rally against a man he'd beaten 10-5 at the same stage of last year's championship.

A fightback looked a possibility when he won the first frame of Sunday's session but Higgins then saw his 22-year-old opponent win four frames in a row with Selby knocking in two century breaks, 123 and 110, on his way to victory.

Unable to get going

"I just couldn't get going," said the 30-year-old Higgins. "It was a funny match and I started very scrappily yesterday but Mark played great tonight.

"It looks like he has changed his game from last year. I thought he was a player who wasn't going to do much in the game but he looks like one who could do very well now.

"I came here with high hopes after having such a good season but if someone keeps you in your seat there's not much you can do."

And with the 2005 World championship won by 150/1 qualifier Shaun Murphy, Selby — who has wins against snooker stars Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Hendry to his credit — said there was no reason why he couldn't do likewise.

"It's a dream come true," said Selby, from Leicester, central England, after his first Crucible victory.

"I was tense at the start of the match but I felt brilliant at the end," added Selby.

In other matches, six-times champion Steve Davis, 48, advanced after beating Andy Hicks 10-4.

World No. 11 Stephen Lee held off a tough challenge from qualifier Allister Carter to secure his place in the next round.

Scotland's Graeme Dott eased through after beating 1991 champion John Parrott 10-3.

The results (first round):

Mark Selby (Eng) bt John Higgins (Sco) 10-4 (69-63 (Higgins 54), 84-44, 44-74 (50), 72-67 (Higgins 53), 36-67, 74-9 (58), 84-57 (59), 0-119 (119), 72-9 (50), 32-84 (52), 127-0 (123), 66-20 (58), 79-35, 114-3 (110)).

Stephen Lee (Eng) bt Allister Carter (Eng) 10-8 (29-63, 63-27, 59-50, 16-112, 67-27 (58), 94-1, 67-60, 79-52, 23-71, 88-0 (79), 8-84 (75), 28-76 (69), 1-64, 50-57, 4-135 (135), 90-0 (61), 76-0 (62), 82-28).

Steve Davis (Eng) bt Andy Hicks (Eng) 10-4 (34-75, 83-34, 69-40, 21-92, 91- 24, 60-40, 74-38, 70-38, 70-38, 1-108 (Hicks), 37-70, 82-12, 65-2, 81-47).

Ken Doherty (Irl) bt Barry Hawkins (Eng) 10-1 (64-81, 73-29, 56-15, 71-37, 73-19, 62-35, 69-39, 69-1, 80-5, 52-33, 62-17).

Graeme Dott (Sco) bt John Parrott (Eng) 10-3 (113-0 (98 break), 62-8, 60-9 (50), 68-9 (56), 138-0 (80), 70-1, (57), 1-74 (63), 28-69, 67-63, 70-64 (61), 67-70, 88-5 (59), 66-52).

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