Dec 1 2012
John Higgins began his bid for a fourth williamhill.com UK Championship title by grinding out a 6-3 first-round win over Michael Holt.
The Scot, champion in 1998, 2000 and 2010, came through his opening test on day one of the tournament at York's Barbican Centre, stepping up his performance following a mid-match scare which left his mind "scrambled".
The 37-year-old Scot, who stunned Judd Trump with a terrific comeback in the final to win the Shanghai Masters title in September, has looked to be approaching his very best form after going through a slump last season. And while he scaled no great heights against 34-year-old Holt, there were enough indications that his game is in healthy order.
Higgins, who made an early break of 116, split the opening six frames with Holt and was behind midway through frame seven. But he then seized on an opening to inch ahead in the match, and it proved the turning point as he pulled away to clinch victory.
"I'm delighted to win. I was on edge the whole game," said Higgins, who will play Mark Davis or Cao Yupeng next.
"Being the first match on, sometimes that's not for the best. The table was playing really slow, the cushions were the slowest I think I've ever played on and it was difficult to get used to the conditions."
The world number three added: "It was looking dodgy in the seventh frame when Michael could have cleared up and won that frame to make it 4-3.
"My head was getting scrambled, I was getting frustrated with myself and if it had gone 4-3 he would have probably gone on to win."
Holt, the world number 29, said: "I love being at these tournaments and really want to win. But I've been at this stage of my career for about 10 years. I know I can beat anyone. It's really frustrating. I'm always just that far away from winning."
Australian Open champion Barry Hawkins came through a difficult assignment against China's Liang Wenbo, winning 6-4.