THE big occasion brings out the best in Matthew Stevens and the Welshman is spying another long run in the UK Championship.

Stevens beat Dominic Dale 6-1 in his opening encounter in this year’s tournament and the 35-year-old continues to have good memories every time he has a baize battle in York.

He beat Stephen Hendry to win the UK at the Barbican in 2003, has twice been a finalist in the event, and said he was feeling good about his chances this time following his victory.

Dale was visibly unwell in the arena, his face covered in a rash, and he later reported that he believed he had contracted shingles.

“He doesn’t look the best when he is well,” Stevens joked about Dale, before adding: “He looked awful and it is one of those unfortunate things – especially in a big tournament like this – it is bad luck and I felt for him. He looked really unwell.”

Dale actually took the lead, winning the first frame following a break of 71, but Stevens gradually wore him down and won a couple of scrappy frames after the mid-session interval to book his passage.

Stevens added: “It is nice to come back somewhere you have won before. I can’t believe it was nine years ago – it only seems a couple of years ago. It came at a nice time and it was a proud moment.

“It is nice to get that first win on the board and I’m looking forward to the rest of the tournament.

“I haven’t done that well this year. I’ve played in a lot of events but I haven’t won that many matches. It has been stop-start. I’ve won a game and lost a game.

“But it is always nice to come to a big event and play live on the BBC. That’s what I play for and normally it’s when I produce my best snooker.

“I’ve reached a couple of world finals, I have lost two UK finals and won one and I do tend to play a little bit better on the big occasions.

“I’m feeling good about my chances this week.”

On his prospects against Marco Fu, who he will meet in the second round this afternoon, Stevens said: “It doesn’t really matter who you play against. Marco is a fantastic player and it is going to be a tight game.”