Monday, 10 June 2013

To Bulgaria and back

John Higgins looked back to his good old self in Bulgaria over the weekend - and ended it holding the first trophy of the season aloft.

Picture by Monique Limbos
The Wizard of Wishaw - and four-time world champion - struggled to find his form at the end of last season and people can be forgiven for questioning whether his best was actually in the past.

But this was back to business for the Scot as he flew to Sofia for the second ever Bulgarian Open and strode confidently to the winning line.

On the final day, he beat a star-studded list of top players including Shaun Murphy, reigning world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and Australia's Neil Robertson in the final.

You have to be playing well to beat these boys and Higgins was. He looked chipper than in the last few months and played well in all departments.

This was the first TV event of the season as we look forward to aother campaign where Eurosport will play a big part taking snooker far and wide to the baize-thirsty public.

This was a chance to see the players up close again after an albeit short summer off. We learned again that despite the shorter format of the PTC events that the top players find a way to win. That's what talent counts for.

We all enjoyed the fun and games of the Wuxi Classic qualifiers, in what looks like will be an exciting new format. But while this new draw structure presents a land of opportunity for the game's newest stars, I think the strength of performance the top players showed in Bulgaria could tell us a lot about the season ahead as we continue on Barry Hearn's  brightest venture so far.

The top players are at the right end of the rankings for a reason and will stay there, unless the chasing pack really earn it. The top players no longer have the same level of protection as in years gone by and have been forced to waver any divine rights to play at all the venues.

While we will see shocks along the way, the top guns will really take some beating - and will probably prove while they are the best.

The new system presents a chance for the more inexperienced professionals to make an immediate impact on the tour, but the big boys won't be giving it away easy.

We saw an indication in Bulgaria of who might do particularly well. Higgins looked in the mood and could be back competing for the honours for the remainder of this season.

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