Higgins fumes after World Championship exit

Defending champion John Higgins crashed out of the 888.com World Championship in Sheffield and launched a furious attack on the playing conditions and tournament officials.

Defending champion John Higgins crashed out of the 888.com World Championship in Sheffield and launched a furious attack on the playing conditions and tournament officials.

Higgins, aiming to become only the third player to successfully defend the title, lost 13-9 to Welshman Ryan Day in the second round at the Crucible.

Day will face Stephen Hendry in the quarter-finals after the seven-time champion completed a surprisingly easy 13-7 victory over Chinese star Ding Junhui.

Higgins laid the blame for his shock exit squarely at the door of tournament director Mike Ganley, claiming it was "pretty pathetic" that the tables had not been re-covered before the start of the second round.

"I spoke to the tournament director about it, we are playing on the same cloth for eight days and they are going to re-cover them tonight I think," Higgins said.

"They should be re-covered before the second round. We've always had these problems.

"We are talking about the biggest tournament in our lives and when I ask the question the answer I get back is that they haven't got the manpower to re-cover the tables before the second round.

"It's flabbergasting and I let it get to me and it's a lesson I have to learn.

"The cushions are totally unplayable. Let me stress Ryan totally deserved to win and the conditions are the same for both players, but it was a lottery whenever you were playing off any cushions.

"It's really pretty pathetic that they are undermanned and can't re-cover them until tonight, but tonight is too late for the likes of myself.

"I don't think the tournament director is doing his job correctly. We are not asking a lot, it should be easily fixed."

Day, who reached the quarter-finals for the first time, admitted the conditions were not ideal but added: "I understand what John was saying but I just tried to get on with it.

"There's not a lot you can do about it, we have all played on the same table. I think I dealt with it best. I don't think it was all that bad and even a brand new cloth has bad bounces."

Reacting to Higgins' complaints, a statement from World Snooker read: "Along with our partners, we are determined to ensure that we provide the best possible playing conditions at the 888.com World Snooker Championship.

"This is the longest tournament that we run. Two years ago we decided to bring in an extra re-cover of the tables after the second Saturday of the event. Previously the tables were not re-covered until the semi-final stage.

"We do listen carefully to feedback provided by players, both positive and negative, and we will be analysing the comments we have received this year so that, going forward, we can continue to work to provide the best possible conditions."

Higgins led 4-0 and 6-3 during yesterday's play but resumed this morning at 8-8 and quickly lost the first three frames, even though Day's highest break was just 49.

A break of 83 gave Higgins a glimmer of hope but Day took the next two frames to seal a famous triumph.

Hendry threatened to win with a session to spare when he led 10-2 yesterday evening and resumed 11-5 ahead, needing just two frames for victory.

A break of 112 in the opening frame put the 39-year-old 12-5 ahead and, after Ding had taken the next two to keep his faint hopes alive, a break of 70 in the 20th frame secured Hendry's place in his 17th Crucible quarter-final.

Hendry was a 33-1 outsider at the start of the tournament and admitted: "The bookmakers go on form and the last two or three years they have got it pretty much right.

"But I know what I've done in the past and I know what I'm capable of. It's like my living room, I put my pipe and slippers on and get my feet under the table.

"I played probably tighter than I ever have but when you're up against players like Ding you have to keep the game tight. One of my biggest faults the last few years has been trying to push the boat out and poor shot selection."

Another former champion, 2005 winner Shaun Murphy, narrowly avoided the embarrassment of losing with a session to spare against Essex's Ali Carter.

Carter extended his 6-2 overnight lead to 12-3 against a totally out-of-sorts Murphy, whose highest break of the match was just 60.

But the world number one, who has reached the semi-finals or better in six of his last seven events, dug deep to claim the last frame of the session to trail 12-4. The match resumes at 7pm this evening.

With Hendry's match finished early, the entire arena were able to see fellow Scot Stephen Maguire race into a commanding lead over Australian Neil Robertson.

Maguire won two scrappy opening frames but then rolled in breaks of 50 and 131 to lead 4-0 at the mid-session interval.

Maguire won the first eight frames of his first round match with Anthony Hamilton and repeated the trick against Robertson to take a stranglehold on the match.

Breaks of 62, 110, 79 and 67 after the interval gave the 27-year-old from Glasgow an 8-0 lead going into tomorrow's play, when he could seal a quarter-final place with a session to spare.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up