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Maguire Survives, Milkins Exits

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Day one of the Players Championship Grand Finals in Thailand and already it has been a potentially significant day in the race for places at the Crucible, with Stephen Maguire surviving what looked to be a tip change at 3-2 down to John Higgins to win 4-3, while Robert Milkins fell at the first hurdle to Chris Wakelin.

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As explained within my tournament preview, Stephen Maguire came into his match with John Higgins today under pressure to earn prize money to help his bid for an automatic Crucible seeding and following some drama against his countryman he was able to come through a 4-3 winner today.

It was not without a fight from Higgins though, as the four-time world champion led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, before Maguire had to take a 15 minute break to either repair or replace his tip  following a miscue. To his credit however he was able to come back to secure victory and with it, an extra £3,000 towards his world ranking, as he looks to at least retain his current position and avoid having to qualify for the World Championship.

His hopes were given a further boost later in the day as one of the two players chasing him was to suffer a surprise defeat, Robert Milkins losing 4-0 to the recent Indian Open quarter-finalist this afternoon. For Milkins this means that he must now reach at least the final of the China Open next week in Beijing if he is to have a chance of overtaking Maguire, or he will have to face the prospect of having to win three qualifying matches at Ponds Forge next month to make it back to the Crucible for the first time since 2013.

Elsewhere today, Neil Robertson came back from 3-1 down to edge out Marco Fu in a nerve-jangling deciding frame, while Joe Perry recorded another excellent win against the struggling Ding Junhui to reach the last 16.

Another man who is struggling for form at the minute is defending champion Barry Hawkins and he too was to fall at the first hurdle today, despite winning a frame against Mark King on the ‘three misses’ rule, but Michael Holt was able to stop his recent run of bad results with a strong 4-2 victory against Jimmy Robertson.

One man looking up in the rankings at the moment is Matt Selt and he gave his hopes of a top 32 seeding for the World Championship a boost with victory against Oliver Lines, avenging his recent loss to the Leeds’ youngster in Gdynia, while Mark Allen came through strongly in a decider against Ryan Day to win the final match of the day.

The action continues tomorrow…