Davis relishing Higgins clash

Mark Davis will begin his match against John Higgins this afternoon. Picture by Steve Hunnisett (eh17009j)
Mark Davis will begin his match against John Higgins this afternoon. Picture by Steve Hunnisett (eh17009j)

Mark Davis is relishing the prospect of having a crack at four-times champion John Higgins in the Betfair World Snooker Championship.

St Leonards-based Davis, the world number 16, will take on seventh-ranked Higgins in an eye-catching first round tie at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The best of 19 frames match will get under way at 2.30pm today (Sunday) with the second session following 24 hours later.

Davis said: “It’s one of the toughest ones you can get. He’s won it four times and he’s one of the best players there’s ever been. Whoever you get it’s tough. You’ve got to play well to beat any of them, but there’s some players you could probably play well against and still get beaten comfortably because that’s how good they are.”

Although Higgins has 25 full ranking event titles to his credit, Davis can draw heart from his thrilling win over the Scot en route to the semi-finals of the UK Championship in December.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Davis continued. “I beat John in the UK and that’s going to give me confidence. It was a big match arena, packed house and it will be the same again.

“Hopefully it will be a good game. John hasn’t had that many good results lately, but he’s the sort of the player that when the World Championships come along, I’m expecting him to play well. I’ve got to play at my best to have a chance.”

Davis, 40, will be making his eighth appearance at the sport’s blue riband event and has so far won just two matches, but considers himself a better player now than on any of his previous visits.

“I’ve never played that great there so I’m due a performance,” he went on. “I think the game’s been there a while, but it’s getting it out there. Mentally I’m a better player and I’m a more consistent player.

“If you win your first game you feel you’re into the tournament and who knows what can happen. If your game clicks anything can happen. There’s a lot of good players there and they’re all capable of doing it. If it’s your week or couple of weeks, you hit the ball well and the balls run for you, anything can happen.”

Davis was forced to qualify as a result of defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan opting to return to the sport and he did well to come through a tough match against 34th-ranked Chinese player Liang Wenbo 10-6 last weekend.

“It was probably one of the toughest if not the toughest one there,” Davis added. “I knew I had to be on my game right from the start. He’s a top player and it was a good match. We both scored pretty well and I thought it was a pretty good standard.”

Davis hit two century breaks, a 99, two in the 70s and two in the 60s in a match where he led 5-2 before being pegged back to 5-4 at the end of the first session. He was 7-6 ahead at the interval during the second session before reeling off three frames in a row with some impressive break building.

“I was a bit disappointed to be 5-4,” he said. “It probably should’ve been 6-3, but I would’ve taken a lead at the start. At the next interval it was 7-6 and it could’ve been 8-5, but I played three really good frames after that. I was pretty pleased with how I played.”

Davis was typically philosophical about having to qualify as a result of O’Sullivan making a comeback. The 2012 winner was an impressive 10-4 winner over Marcus Campbell in his opening match yesterday.

“It’s not bothered me one bit,” Davis said. “The fact that he was having a break from snooker got me in the Masters and got me seeded in the UKs. I’m certainly not going to moan about it; if anything I owe him a thank you. To be honest I’m happy to see him there; you want to see Ronnie there, especially being the defending champion.”

Davis, the reigning Six Reds World Champion, planned to play a few frames with Stuart Bingham before travelling up to Yorkshire on Friday night. He intended to watch some of yesterday’s snooker to familiarise himself with the venue, as well as doing a spot of last minute practice.