Sunday, 25 September 2011

Higginson's maiden title is a platform to build on

Andrew Higginson enjoyed the biggest success of his career tonight beating world champion John Higgins 4-1 in the PTC5 final.

Victory in Sheffield marked his first ever ranking title and could prove the spark for one of the game's friendliest stars to finally push on.

Despite first turning professional back in 1995, the 33-year-old only first really made his mark on the circuit at the Welsh Open in 2007, where he made his first competitive 147 break and went all the way to the final.

Following that superb run, it was difficult for anyone to argue against his great talent, but it was clear he was a player depending on his confidence.

Back then, people talked about that run becoming a platform for more consistent success, but despite earning greater respect he's been unable to reach those heady heights again.

Higginson has remained a formidable force in the qualifying cubicles. In fact, he's won at least one match in each of the seven ranking tournaments he's played in this season and he's a player most look to avoid on the way to a venue. While this suggests consistency, my own experience of watching him play says he can be hit and miss. Some people argue he struggles under pressure. I wouldn't go along with that entirely but I know that while on his day he's a match for anyone, when he's off colour, it exposes a game with a soft centre.

So, it's perhaps because of this that he's retained a decent ranking but not gone on to trouble the latter stages of the televised tournaments.

This weekend though, he was excellent from start to finish and showed what he can achieve with a healthy dose of confidence. He grew with every win and proved again that he can beat the very best when he's playing well.

Even in tonight's final, a Higgins returning back to form couldn't stand in his way. He was on song and looked every inch the calm and accomplished break builder we see regularly off the television cameras.

His run to the £10,000 top prize also saw him beat professionals Jack Lisowski, Dave Harold, Ian McCulloch, Ben Woollaston, Xiao Guodong and Joe Meara as he steadily gathered momentum on his title charge.

This PTC trophy is at least a tangible reward he can take away from a solid career as a professional and is a marker of a tournament where he really got it together, and showed what he's capable of at his best.

But in my opinion, the challenge for him now is to step up and reproduce a similar level of performance on the television cameras, where everyone can see.

This win lifts him up to world number 20 in the provisional rankings and means he's finely placed to potentially claim a top 16 place before the end of the season.

The plaudits being dished out to Higginson tonight were so numerous you know he's a popular player. But while he should take some time to enjoy what he's achieved, you also wonder whether this can spur him on to flourish some more.

Well played Andrew!

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