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John Higgins
Zhao Xintong beat John Higgins (above) in the last 32 of the UK Championship in November
Venue: Alexandra Palace, London Dates: 9-16 January
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

John Higgins moved into the quarter-finals of the Masters with an emphatic 6-2 victory over UK champion Zhao Xintong at Alexandra Palace.

Higgins began with a superb century and, although Zhao responded with 128, the Scot then took control.

A break of 104 gave Higgins a 4-1 lead and he rounded off his win with a composed 78 to gain revenge for his defeat by Zhao at the UK Championship.

Four-time world champion Higgins will face Mark Williams on Thursday.

While 46-year-old Higgins is making a record 28th appearance at the Masters, first-round opponent Zhao, 24, was the only debutant in the 16-man field.

Higgins, who led 5-3 before losing 6-5 to Zhao at the UK Championship, made sure there would be no repeat with a combination of exemplary safety and wonderful potting.

He has undertaken a fitness regime and slimmed down to get into shape this season and reached four finals.

“Zhao is a superstar of the game but to beat him 6-2, I am really pleased with the way I played,” Higgins told BBC Sport.

“I missed a couple near the end. Maybe I was getting a bit edgy because I had such a strong lead.

“I am just glad to be back and glad I can fit in the chair now. I have never done any fitness work in my life and I could feel in the last few years really how the nerves were getting to me a little bit more.

“But just being fitter and losing some weight has helped 100%.”

Higgins looked in fine touch throughout, showing he could score heavily and dominating the scrappier frames to nullify Zhao’s fluent style. His main highlight came in the second frame when he registered the highest break of the tournament so far.

Analysis

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry on BBC Two

“It was men against boys. John [Higgins] was totally dominant. Zhao had a magnificent century in the second frame but just could not compete.

“If anything, Zhao should have learned that is the level he has to get to. He has won the UK, but if he is greedy for success he has to forget that now and get to that level regularly in the big events.”

Former six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC Two

“It was more comfortable than John Higgins might have expected. The story of the match was that expectation levels are different. Not only for Zhao, but also it probably took the heat off John Higgins that he was not automatically expected to win.”

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