Three-time world champion Mark Selby breathed a sigh of relief after holding off amateur Michael White to progress into the second round of the UK Championship.
The 37-year-old has enjoyed a strong start to the 2020/21 season, lifting the European Masters trophy in September while also reaching the semi-finals of the English Open and the Champion of Champions.
Although White fell off the professional tour earlier this year, the former world No.15 represented a potential banana skin draw for Selby, and their Round 1 contest at the Marshall Arena was close for its entirety, with the Jester from Leicester eventually prevailing 6-4.
Selby notched a stunning break of 140 in the third frame as well as two half-centuries at either end of the best-of-11 match, but he admitted there were still things to work on ahead of Round 2.
“Michael’s obviously good enough to still be on the tour - it’s only a couple of years ago he was in the top 16 and winning tournaments himself,” the world No.5 said. “It probably couldn’t have been a tougher start.
“I didn’t play amazingly and there are a few things I need to improve on, but I dug in. Overall, since the World Championships in the summer through until now I’m really happy with my form.
“I feel good out there, I’m enjoying it and I feel like I can compete. I’ve been around long enough now to know that if I play my A-game I’m capable of winning any tournament I play in and that will be the case here.”
Having lifted the UK Championship trophy in 2012 and 2016, Selby conceded he was missing the tournament’s usual home of the Barbican in York, with the venue switching to Milton Keynes due to Covid-19 restrictions.
But while the entirety of the tour calendar continues to be contested in Buckinghamshire, Selby believes there is still a special feeling surrounding the first Triple Crown event of the year.
He added: “It’s disappointing not to be in York. The Barbican’s one of the better venues and York’s a great city as well, so hopefully it’s only for one year.
“But it’s great that the tournament’s still going ahead and World Snooker have done a great job. The setup looks great and it’s still the same as if we were in Yorkshire. To have some atmosphere would be nice but it is what it is.”