Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Higgins still the man to beat

Andrew Higginson's PTC win in Sheffield may have dwarfed John Higgins' return to form - but mark my words, the Wizard of Wishaw is back in business.

Although he failed to get his hands on his first trophy of the season, I have no doubt he's still the man to beat in this year's UK and World Championships.

We've got to that stage of the season where you begin judge players' form ready for the first of the big tournaments.

It's no surprise therefore that four-time world champion Higgins looked like he found an extra gear in Sheffield.

He's always had that ability to raise his game when the biggest events creep closer - and I expect this season to be no different.

Returning from his ban in the last campaign, Higgins needed no extra incentive to land the biggest trophies, but I've got a feeling that desire is unlikely to subside.

Now he's started to be classed as the greatest players of all time, records are in his sights.

He's already set himself the loft goal of matching Stephen Hendry's incredible seven world titles, and even despite the imperious double last term, deep down, I think Higgins still wants to prove himself.

The grey clouds that smoldered over his career more than a year ago still haven't been forgotten by everyone in snooker.

And coming back feels like the second chapter of his career. A chapter I'm sure he wants to be even more successful in.

Strengthened by his experience, Higgins has added tenacity and shear determination to his already classy game.

Last season I would have said Higgins and Williams were out in front as the players to catch. Now, it's just Higgins. That doesn't mean John is a banker for the top prizes. The chasing pack is so large, there's plenty of chances for him to slip up. The new world number one, Mark Selby, comes to mind as a prime candidate.

But even though the world rankings read that Higgins is the third best, I reckon he'll still take the beating. In fact, whoever defeats Higgins at the UK or World Championships, should expect to go on and win the title.

Higgins will be cranking up his practice, getting stronger with each event. This will again make him the toughest man to beat.

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