The former world champion Judd Trump established a 6-3 lead in his first-round match against the debutant Hossein Vafaei at the Crucible. Trump had looked to play down expectations of another success after claiming just one ranking event title, which came at the inaugural Turkish Masters last month.
However, the Crucible crowd were treated to a vintage display during the opening frames of Wednesday’s afternoon match, with a break of 110 seeing the 2019 champion open up a 3-0 lead. The Iranian qualifier Vafaei, though, had his first World Championship frame on the board to reduce the deficit ahead of the mid-session interval.
Vafaei was a level at 3-3 after also edging the fifth and then taking the next with a break of 99 after just missing the chance of a maiden century on the final red. A composed run of 56 helped Trump take the seventh frame, and the former champion edged 5-3 ahead following a re-rack in the next before a 73 clearance increased his advantage to take into Thursday’s conclusion.
Elsewhere on Wednesday afternoon, Jack Lisowski held off a fightback from Matthew Stevens to progress 10-8. Lisowski had resumed with a 6-3 lead over Stevens, but that was soon wiped out following a swift start from the Welshman with two half-century breaks and a 99 clearance helping him level.
The Englishman, seeded 14, regrouped to take the next three, including breaks of 78 and 83, only for Stevens to respond again and cut the deficit back to 9-8. The 18th frame proved another tense affair, which Lisowski eventually took 93-33 to book a showdown with Australia’s Neil Robertson for a place in the quarter-finals.
Earlier, the four-time champion John Higgins eventually saw off Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-7 to move through to the last 16, where he will play either Luca Brecel or Noppon Saengkham, with the latter leading 6-2 after the opening session. Higgins, who won the last of his world titles in 2011, levelled the match at 5-5 on the back of a 75 break in Wednesday morning’s lengthy opening frame, which lasted almost half an hour.
Another clearance of 53 was followed by a century as the veteran Scot, an eight-time finalist, took a 7-6 lead into the mid-session interval. Following the restart, Un-Nooh recovered to stay in touch at 8-7, but Higgins eventually edged a nervy 16th frame 58-40 to move within one of victory, which he secured with another classy half-century clearance.
It had looked at one stage as if Higgins would push home his advantage when 8-6 ahead, only to go into the middle pocket off a black when trying to screw back up the table. “When I went in-off in the middle bag, I felt numb at that point, as if someone had taken me out of my own body, that’s when some crazy thoughts go through your mind, but I managed to get to 10 first,” Higgins said.
“It’s always more nerve-racking in the first round because you just want to get through and get into the tournament. I feel as if I am hitting the ball well at the moment, that can get better the longer I stay in the event.”
Kyren Wilson, runner-up in 2020, won four of the last five frames to beat Ding Junhui 10-8. Wilson was trailing for most of the match but came good with some clutch matchplay, with breaks of 65 and 62 when the match was tied at 8-8.