Sunday, 20 February 2011

Higgins lands Welsh title

John Higgins. Your father would be proud.

It's only been just over a fortnight since John Higgins' father passed away. He was playing in the German Masters at the time.

Not surprisingly, he pulled out of that tournament.

And with the Welsh Open coming straight after, many people questioned whether Higgins would be able to produce with his loss still so fresh.

Tonight he answered that question with a resounding yes, as he beat his Scottish colleague Stephen Maguire 9-6 to lift the Welsh Open trophy for a second year running.

Higgins is one of the strongest players mentally, the game has ever produced. In this battle, he showed his vast resilience once more. He came back to the Newport Arena for tonight's final session trailing Maguire 5-3.

That didn't bother him in the slightest.

Even if he's not as he prolific best, it's never easy playing Higgins. Maguire found that out from ball one as he won all four of the opening frames before the mid-session to turn the match completely on its head and take a commanding 7-5 lead.

You always felt that if Maguire had any chance of winning this match, he needed to establish an advantage in the first session. He did that, but then he failed to protect it.

Higgins was always going to be gunning for a quick start, with the first few frames being critical to deciding the outcome of the match.

In all of the first three frames, Maguire had built a lead but let Higgins steal on the counter-attack.

While we should praise Higgins for showing his superior matchplay assets again, Maguire cannot bemoan a lack of opportunities.

He had them but never took them.

The way Maguire lost these frames could have knocked the stuffing out of him but after the mid-session he made a chance stick to reduce his arrears to 7-6.

That was the cue for Higgins to come back stronger once more. He clinched the next frame but was put through the wringer to grab the final frame. He built a healthy lead but Maguire recovered to get two snookers, before Higgins potted the championship-winning brown ball.

It was an emotional win for Higgins, which again shows when it comes to the crunch, he always delivers. He won six of the night's seven frames, and goes one ranking title ahead of the great Ronnie O'Sullivan

Tonight's win also marks his 11th consecutive ranking match win since returning from his suspension. His lay-off from the game has made him even more determined to succeed. While Maguire had a good crack at him, like Mark Williams did in Telford, he failed.

In an era of the game where the door to win major events is so wide open, Higgins can be delighted to become the first man to win a second ranking event this season. It may be a cliche but there are no easy games at the televised stages of snooker competitions now. Anyone is capable of beating anyone, unless your name is John Higgins of course.

The consistency of dominance he's shown since his return is frightening for the rest of the top players.

Talk will now inevitably turn towards the World Championships in April.

Higgins will go into that event as the world number one, and the man to beat.

No comments:

Post a Comment