Higgins hopes to overcome nerves after booking last-eight Masters date
World Champion John Higgins is hopeful he can conquer his nerves at this year's Masters after getting his campaign off to a winning start over Matthew Stevens.
Despite having won the tournament twice before, the Scot has never consistently excelled in the first televised competition of the year, and his 6-4 first-round defeat by Graeme Dott a year ago was not out of keeping with his overall record at the invitational event.
Eye on the ball: Higgins came through his first-round match against Stevens
But Higgins did not struggle on Tuesday, easing to the win at Alexandra Palace – a venue more associated with darts but now hosting the Masters which has left its traditional home of Wembley after 32 years.
And, after seeing off the 2000 champion in front of a 1,500 crowd, Higgins admitted to feeling much more at home at 'Ally Pally'.
End of the road: Stevens was beaten by Higgins
'I was a little bit nervous, it's the first competitive snooker I've played since the UK Championships last month,' he told BBC Sport.
'I always felt overawed at Wembley. It was such a massive area. I won it twice, but I've lost about seven or eight first-round games.
'Here, you're not as close as the Crucible, but it is an enclosed area and it gets a big thumbs up from me.'
The 36-year-old's highest break of 90 came in the opening frame, only for Stevens to level despite breaking down on 45 after getting a kick. Higgins won two scrappy frames to send him into the interval with a 3-1 lead, only for Stevens to win the fifth, posting a 65 after Higgins had rattled the jaws of the middle pocket with a routine pink.
Two moderate breaks of 44 and 30 helped Higgins take the next and, with a two-frame cushion behind him he eased to the win, taking the last two frames, with a 69 in the penultimate one his second most notable contribution of the match.