Relieved Selby survives early exit scare at Crucible

Ronnie O'Sullivan plays a shot as referee Olivier Marteel watches on.
Ronnie O'Sullivan plays a shot as referee Olivier Marteel watches on.
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Three-time world champion Mark Selby survived a Crucible scare before squeezing into the second round of the Betfred World Championship.

Selby, who lifted the world title in 2014, 2016 and 2017, had trailed 5-1 against debut-maker Zhao Xintong.

Zhao, 22, is one of six Chinese players – a record number to qualify for the televised stages – who live and train in Sheffield.

But the world No 2 had to dig deep before finally securing a 10-7 win.

“I am relieved more than anything,” said Selby. “I am really happy to just get that first round out of the way.

“I am scoring okay, the next few days I will practise on my safety. It was difficult, but I am through.”

Selby fell at the first hurdle in the UK Championship – losing to amateur James Cahill in York – and the Blackpool potter has another upset in his sights.

Debutant qualifier Cahill, the first amateur to play at the Crucible, resumes this morning, leading world No 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-4 in their best-of-19 contest.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan, who has reached seven of the 10 tournaments he has competed in this season, winning five trophies, was punished for several unforced errors.

Four-time Crucible champion John Higgins wrapped up a 10-7 win over Mark Davis despite spending seven hours in A&E on Sunday.

His brother Jason suffered a fractured kneecap after falling down the Crucible stairs at the end of Sunday’s opening 6-3 session.

Higgins travelled with his brother to hospital before returning yesterday to secure his second-round meeting against either Stuart Bingham or Graeme Dott.

“My brother’s fall was a total freak accident,” said Higgins.

“After he watched me play I was going to go and get changed and then we were going to meet for a bit of lunch. Coming off the final step at the Crucible his trainer stuck and his full force went down on his knee, and he’s fractured his kneecap. He was in a bad way, we were at the hospital for about six or seven hours.”

Shaun Murphy hopes to finish a poor season on a high after completing a rare 10-0 whitewash over Sheffield-based Chinese teenager Luo Honghao.

It is the first whitewash since John Parrott beat Eddie Charlton 10-0 in 1992.

The 2005 world champion – who has not reached the last 16 of a ranking tournament since December – knocked in breaks of 138, 102, 101, 76, 62 and 123 to secure a second-round meeting with Australian Neil Robertson.

“After the season I have had never in my wildest dreams did I think I could come here and win 10-0,” said Murphy.

“This has been the worst season of my life, I have been in a daze.

“Neil Robertson has had a brilliant season and he’ll be the overwhelming favourite. I’ll just be trying to stay with him. No one is expecting me to win and that suits me fine.”