SWINDON-born potter Liam Highfield believes prioritising his snooker is reaping rewards after booking his place in the second round of the English Open, writes WILL JENNINGS.

Highfield beat Mitchell Mann 4-1 at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena in the first Home Nations event of the season.

The world No.63 has sought to broaden his horizons in recent times, possessing keen interests in fashion and running and training for the Liverpool Marathon earlier this year.

Coronavirus thwarted those plans, but with snooker now the No.1 priority, Highfield reckons a shift in mentality held the key to his success.

“I played well and scored really heavily - the table was playing really nicely and I was happy with the way I played,” said Highfield.

“Because of everything that’s gone on the marathon was cancelled - I still ran through lockdown as it was the only thing you could do but no marathons, no half marathons and nothing going on.

“I’m concentrating on the snooker now as it’s the only thing to do! I’ve been doing bits of running but nothing too major.

“I’m just trying to stay fit and healthy and get my head down with the snooker as basically there’s nothing else to do as you can’t go out.

“Hopefully we can repeat what I was going to do and run a marathon when everything kicks back up - if it ever does - but we’ll see.

“Everything in my life has narrowed - I’ve been back in the club practising and while I haven’t practiced that much in the last week, I’ve been playing really well and practiced six days a week.”

Highfield sparkled under the Marshall Arena lights, striking a brilliant second-frame break of 128 to floor Mann in style.

And that century was supplemented by further efforts of 99, 74 and 63 as the 29-year-old started his week in style.

Highfield has never reached the semi-finals of a ranking event and is targeting a second appearance in the third round in two seasons.

It would be in front of no fans if he got there - but Highfield, who now lives in Stoke, says behind closed doors snooker suits him just fine.

“I’m all good with being here - it’s about whatever it takes to play snooker and for the tournaments to go ahead, whatever they have to do.

“I feel safe and I’m not one to get paranoid about anything, so it is what it is.”

Watch the English Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport app and Quest.