Highfield 'elated' at Crucible return as Trump lies in wait

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Liam Highfield is delighted to be back at a venue he last played in three years ago
Liam Highfield is delighted to be back at a venue he last played in three years ago

LIAM HIGHFIELD will face world No.1 Judd Trump in the World Snooker Championship first round after coming through a mammoth qualifying campaign to reach the Crucible, writes Ross Lawson.

Swindon-born Highfield endured an epic week just to reach the main event, overcoming Fan Zhengyi and Elliot Slessor in final-frame deciders before overcoming Zhou Yuelong 10-7.

China’s Zhou was the highest-ranked player at the English Institute of Sport, leaving the 30-year-old with plenty to celebrate already in Sheffield.

But it’s all eyes on round one for Highfield, who couldn’t have asked for a much tougher draw than the 2019 world champion Trump, who has won five ranking events this season alone.

"I'm elated, I have fond memories of getting there in 2018 so it's been a shame not to have been back again before now,” said Highfield, who plays on Tuesday, live on Eurosport.

"I'm over the moon, Zhou is an amazing player and the graft he showed when trailing in the match was incredible.

"I've had two deciders but this match was tougher, the tiredness hadn't really kicked in after the match, so I'd like to play one of the later first-round draws so I can get some rest and then onto practice.

"I've got a bit of a neck injury so the chiropractor will be busy. I thought it was going to affect me in the match, I've been with the physio and the chiropractor most days for the past two weeks to get me to the start line.

"When it loosens up and does its work, I'm fine to play. With the adrenaline, the pain doesn't kick in – I'll be fine, I'm sure.”

This won’t be the first time Highfield has reached the Crucible, taking his place in the first round three years ago.

Victory wasn’t to come his way, losing 10-5 to Mark Allen, but he was certainly left all the better for the experience in South Yorkshire.

And with a small smattering of fans in attendance in the opening stages, Highfield is looking forward to creating yet more memorable moments.

"I have amazing memories, I'm so happy to have played there before because it is one of the goals you want to tick off as a snooker player,” he added.

"I just can't wait to get back down those steps. I'm determined to produce some good snooker and show some of the players I can play, because everyone is a top player there.

"I've worked a lot on the mental side of the game over the past few weeks and I'm definitely noticing improvements as part of that.

"My mum hasn't been able to watch, she normally comes everywhere with me but with the pandemic, she's not been able to watch live.

"That would be a nice thing for her if she's able to get to the Crucible.”

Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3