MATTHEW Stevens seems to raise his game for the big occasion and on his return to the site of his most famous victory the Carmarthen potter looked to be back to approaching his best form.
Stevens cruised through the first round of the UK Championships in York with a 6-1 win over compatriot Dominic Dale.
The 35-year-old, who won this title back in 2003 when the tournament was also being held in York, had too much for a clearly under-the-weather Dale to handle.
His opponent appeared to be suffering from some sort of skin infection with a bad rash on his face and Stevens admitted that it had been hard to see his friend and former practice partner suffering.
"Dominic looked awful, it is one of those unfortunate things, no-one wants to be unwell but especially for the important tournaments," he said.
"I really felt for him because he looked really unwell.
"I have not been playing all that well this year, it's been very stop-start but it's always nice to come back to somewhere that you have won before.
"I can't believe that it was nine years ago, it only feels like a couple of years ago but it's good to get the first win under my belt.
"I have reached a couple of world finals and lost two UKs and won one so over the years I have reached five big finals in my career.
"I do tend to play a bit better on the big occasion and I'm feeling good about my chances this year."
Next up for the Carmarthen ace is Marco Fu who, after making his way through the qualifying rounds to reach the main draw, looked in great form in a 6-3 win over Mark Allen.
Defending champion and newly-crowned world no.1 Judd Trump bowed out in the first round on Sunday to qualifier Mark Joyce to open up the top half of the draw.
And Stevens admitted that with the competition as fierce as it is at the moment, the fact that Fu is a qualifier does not mean he will be taking the Hong Kong ace lightly.
"Everyone can play these days, I watched Judd go out and it looked like he was going to cruise through but the competition is so tough now," he added.
"It's not really a major shock anymore because everyone is capable of beating everyone and you have to be on your game."
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