World Snooker Championship: John Higgins 'should inspire fear'

John Higgins plays a pot during his win over Ryan Day
Higgins enjoyed his biggest win at The Crucible since 2007 by beating Ryan Day 10-3

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry believes the game's top players should fear fellow Scot John Higgins now he is back to close to his best.

Higgins, 40, will meet world number nine Ricky Walden in the second round of the World Championship.

He sealed a 10-3 win over Ryan Day with his fourth century of the match, a 121.

"John is definitely back to somewhere near his best. He is scoring very heavily which is a massive advantage," Hendry told BBC Sport.

"I don't think he is quite at his best, but if he can maybe cut out those small, unforced errors if he comes up against the top players like Neil Robertson, Ronnie O'Sullivan or Judd Trump, they should fear him if he is at the top of his game.

"No-one knows his way round the table here better than John Higgins."

Higgins has not made it past the second round at the Crucible since the last of his four titles in 2011, losing to Hendry in 2012, Mark Davis (2013), Alan McManus (2014) and Ding Junhui last year.

But after ending a three-year drought without a ranking title by winning the Welsh Open in February 2015, subsequent titles in Australia and China this season, taking his overall tally to 28, have bolstered his confidence.

Most ranking titles
36 - Stephen Hendry
28 - Steve Davis, John Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan
18 - Mark Williams

"I think that only comes with winning things and winning those three tournaments has given me the inner belief again that I can compete with the best players," Higgins told BBC Sport.

"If I can play my best game I am sure I can be a match for them, but it is doing it on the big stage. We will see what happens in my next game."

Higgins' next opponent Walden pipped him 6-5 in the China Open semi-final earlier this month en route to a second successive ranking final, which the Englishman lost to Trump.

The winner of their contest, which begins on Saturday, 23 April at 1900 BST, will face either Ali Carter or McManus in the quarter-finals.

'Match-play of the highest quality'

After watching Higgins enjoy his biggest margin of victory at The Crucible since 2007, 1991 champion John Parrott believes he will take some beating

"The only thing people were looking at with John was possibly his age at 40 but that doesn't look like it is is going to be a problem - he still looks great," Parrott said.

"A couple of years ago he looked like he was struggling. His long game wasn't there and he lost a bit of concentration and focus, but he has really got it back now.

"He is happy with his cue as well, which is a big factor, and his match-play is just of the highest quality.

"Every time you play him, it is a stern examination and whoever knocks him out is going to have to play very well."

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