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Higgins increases lead

Higgins increases rankings lead
By Eurosport

21/02/2011 at 11:00Updated 21/02/2011 at 14:58

World No.1 John Higgins extended his rankings lead to almost a mammoth 4,000 points with victory at the Welsh Open while seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry secured his place in the Crucible first round.

Higgins, who lost his father to cancer little more than a fortnight ago, beat fellow Scot Stephen Maguire 9-6 in the final in Newport on Sunday.

It was the 23rd ranking title of his career and second of the season following his triumph in the UK Championship before Christmas.

"I've just tried so hard in recent tournaments, taking one ball and one frame at a time," he said.

"It takes a lot out of you concentration-wise, but if I can keep it up then I can keep doing well.

"It's a tough game but it makes you feel great and you have to enjoy it while you are winning."

Higgins has now won 11 consecutive matches in ranking events.

Higgins has 59,320 points, with Welshman Mark Williams - knocked out in the last eight of his home tournament - second on 55,680.

Maguire, who hasn't won a ranking title for three years, climbs two places to sixth. World champion Neil Robertson remains third ahead of Mark Selby and Ding Junhui.

Hendry beat Joe Perry in the first round to go 13th and ensure his place in the first televised round of the World Championship in Sheffield. He then lost to Maguire in the last 16 after recording a 147 break in the opening frame, the 10th of his career.

The current top 16 are all guaranteed such a place with the qualifying round draw for those below - including Matthew Stevens, a quarter-finalist in Wales - to take place soon.