The Wizard Ends Dry Spell

It was a significantly good day to be nicknamed ‘The Wizard’ on Sunday.

As the clock approached midnight, Simon Whitlock finally added a maiden major darts title to a trophy cabinet that many were becoming worried would end barren and neglected.

Whitlock comfortably beat Wes Newton in the final of the European Championship having already claimed bridesmaid positions in both rival World Championships and the lucrative Premier League.

At 43, it could be the confidence boost the Australian needs to galvanise his career and consistently challenge for all the best silverware.

Half a day earlier, another wizard, in starkly different circumstances, notched up a major title of his own in the other side of the world.

Unlike Whitlock, Wishaw’s John Higgins has been a proven winner in professional snooker for almost two decades.

After turning pro in the famed school of 1992 that also included Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and Stephen Lee, Higgins’ meteoric rise saw him lift his first Crucible crown in 1998 as well as being the first man to put an end to fellow Scot Stephen Hendry’s dominance at the summit of the world rankings.

In the following decade Higgins was able to place his hands on practically all of the major trophies the sport had to offer – most of which on multiple occasions – and his prowess on the baize even led some to argue that he was the greatest ever player to have lived.

His 2010/11 season, which started with a controversial six-month ban for bringing the sport into disrepute, proved his dominance when at the height of his powers.

However, since his fourth World Championship in May of that year, doubts crept in and the naysayers have since questioned the Higgins legacy.

the 37 year-old’s performances for the entirety of last season – not a single semi-final in a ranking event – led to him taking an extended break this summer to rejuvenate and recharge his batteries.

Higgins will openly admit that he doesn’t like to practice as much any more and his career drive has a tendency to wane but, when in the zone, when fully focussed, he is undoubtedly deserving of a place on the highest pedestal alongside Hendry, Davis and O’Sullivan.

Yesterday was proof again of just that. 5-0 down to Judd Trump in the final of the Shanghai Masters and seemingly on his way to an embarrassing defeat against the game’s newest star, Higgins complied an immaculate¬†147 maximum break – the sixth of his career.

Despite trailing 7-2 after the first session to a player knocking in one 50-plus break after another, it was always going to premature and foolish to completely write off Higgins’ chances altogether.

And one by one, the Scot reeled off frame after frame en route to taking an 8-7 lead.

Credit where credit is due, his opponent dug deep to twice square the match again and force a decider at 9-9 but Higgins had taken charge and a momentous comeback was completed for a 25th ranking event triumph – now only three behind Davis in second place on the all-time standings.

Superlatives quickly run out when speaking of Higgins’ ability on the table and his antics have brought him back to the projected world no.1 spot in ProSnookerBlog’s rankings.

With so many points to come off from that memorable stretch two seasons ago, it is unlikely he will stay there for long but just the fact that he has fought his way back at all is testament to his capabilities as a player.

As for Trump, his moment will come again, although he will probably feel a little sick of Higgins at this stage given the fact his only two defeats in finals have come at the hands of the Scot.

In 15 years, Trump will potentially be mentioned in the same breath as Higgins but, for now, the limelight belongs to the wizard.

The full draw and results can be viewed by clicking here.

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