John Higgins crashed to a shock 10-4 defeat against Mark Selby in the first round of the 888.com World Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre tonight.
The Scot, winner of the Grand Prix and the Masters and many people’s favourite to capture this title, trailed 6-3 overnight and could find no way back into the match when it resumed.
It represented a complete turnaround from when the duo met at the same stage last year, Higgins having prevailed 10-5 that time.
The seventh seed looked as though he could come back when he took tonight’s opening frame, but amazingly he then lost four in succession as his 22-year-old opponent struck a rich vein of form.
Selby knocked in two century breaks, a 123 and a 110, plus contributions of 58 and 59 to leave the 1998 champion stunned.
“I just couldn’t get going,” said 30-year-old Higgins, from Wishaw. “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.”
Higgins is not the first big name Selby has conquered, having beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry, but this was his first ever win at the Crucible.
“It’s a dream come true,” said the Leicester player, who now faces Mark Williams or Anthony Hamilton in the second round.
“I was tense at the start of the match but I felt brilliant at the end.
“I believe I can go all the way now. I don’t think anyone could have played as well against John as I did tonight.”