147 BREAK FOR STEPHEN HENDRY

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MAXIMUM BREAK FOR STEPHEN HENDRY

Stephen Hendry shrugged off the effects of a 10,000-mile round trip to China as he fired in a thrilling 147 maximum break on day one of the Betfred.com World Championship.

The 43-year-old Scot, seven times a world champion, only arrived back in the country on Friday after his long-haul business trip, which began on Monday, a day after he won a qualifying match to reach the Crucible.

He had joked last Sunday that playing with jet lag might help his game, after a difficult season in which he has struggled for results.

But Hendry cannot have dreamed he would play so well today, as he opened up an 8-1 lead over Stuart Bingham, needing just two more frames on Sunday to reach the second round.

The maximum came in the seventh frame and was the third Hendry has managed at the Sheffield venue, after previous efforts in 1995 and 2009. Ronnie O'Sullivan is the only other player with three Crucible maximums.

John Higgins takes a narrow lead into tonight's concluding session of his first-round clash with Liang Wenbo at the Crucible - but it was almost a very different story.

Last year's winner trailed 4-3 and was then 54-0 behind in frame eight.

However, the 36-year-old Scot was gifted a way back into the frame when Liang potted the white after losing position during a break, and a fluent 72 brought the pair back to level terms.

Higgins then took the next frame too to lead 5-4, the point at which he will resume this evening looking to convert the slim advantage into victory over his 25-year-old Chinese opponent.

There was no masking the fact Higgins is struggling to produce the form which brought him a fourth world title last May.

He has struggled throughout the season, admitting he has let his practice slip, in favour of spending time with wife Denise and their three children.

The former world number one is coming out of an emotional period in his life in which he has served a snooker suspension, lost his father to cancer, and, in stark contrast, experienced the world-title high.

Higgins vowed to put in two weeks of solid practice before travelling to Sheffield, but the early indications, featuring some elementary errors, were that something was still lacking in his game.

His 'B' game was dependable enough to bring the Wishaw man a 3-1 interval lead, on the back of a top break of 71, but Liang stepped up his performance once they returned and runs of 64, 43 and 49 saw him ahead, before a 54 nudged him to the brink of a 5-3 cushion.

Higgins, though, grasped the lifeline afforded him when Liang went in off, as the session swung his way again.

Twice Liang's World Championship campaigns have been ended by Ronnie O'Sullivan, while he suffered defeat at the hands of compatriot Ding Junhui in 2009.

Higgins could join the list of his conquerors but the job is only half done, with 10 frames the target for a place in the last 16.

On the other side of the arena, Dave Gilbert began outstandingly well as he sought his first Crucible victory, building a 6-3 lead against Martin Gould.

The 30-year-old from Tamworth won four qualifiers to reach the main draw, for only the second time, having lost to Stephen Hendry in his opener five years ago.

And he had breaks of 58, 72, 54, 61, 65 and 72 in developing a 6-3 lead over his fellow English potter.

Gould took the final frame of the session to give him some hope in a match which concludes on Sunday.
 
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