Doherty survives a tense early battle

 

KEN DOHERTY survived a tense battle against promising Welsh teenager Mat hew Stevens to reach the second round of the Regal Welsh Open in Newport last night.

But for the third successive year, Doherty, who won 574, could have been on the receiving end of a shock defeat in the deciding frame.

"It was looking ominous at one stage," said Doherty, who made sure of his place in the last 32 with a break of 89 - the highest of the match.

A "risky" black proved to be the crucial shot during Doherty's match winning break. "I knew if I missed it could be very costly. But I had to take the chance, it was a do or die pot which paid off," he said.

Doherty, the world number nine, faces Willie Thorne or Mark Williams for a place in the last 16.

Earlier, Fergal O'Brien went through to the second round following a 5-4 victory over David Roe, seeded 16.

The Dubliner tackles Dennis Taylor for a place in the third round today following the former world champion's 5-1 victory over rank outsider, Paul Wykes.

Doherty was the first to admit that Stevens, a wild card entry to next week's Benson & Hedges Masters at Wembley, could easily have won.

"Matthew is definitely not the kind of player you want to meet in the first round. He's a fine talent, he's improving all the time and I'm very relieved to have seen him off."

Stevens, winner of the Benson & Hedges Championship in November and the Belgian Masters a month later, showed why he has climbed from 236th to 48th in the provisional rankings by snatching the second frame on the black with a 34 clearance to lead 2-0.

Doherty accounted for the third with a run of 48 then won the fourth on the pink and the fifth on the black with a colour clearance, but Stevens refused to capitulate.

Sixth seed Alan McManus was another top player to be taken to a decider. He beat Liverpool's Rod Lawler 5-4 to scrape into the second round and then admitted: "I felt more under pressure than being in a final."