John Higgins has won the 2015 International Championship after a 10-5 victory over David Gilbert in China.
As well as lifting the trophy and collecting a cool £125,000 for his success, Higgins now joins Steve Davis at second on the all-time ranking event winners’ list – having now surpassed Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach 28.
It caps a fantastic week for the four-time world champion, as he has produced some of the best snooker of his career at the tender age of 40.
This time 12 months many were questioning whether Higgins’ career was all but over, such was his dip in form and slide down the world rankings.
However, all of those critics were foolish to ever doubt this most dogged of competitors and the triumph in Daqing represents his third ranking event this year following wins in the Welsh and Australian Opens.
There’s often a debate as to who is the greatest player of all-time and there are arguably four players realistically in the mix – Higgins undoubtedly being one of them.
Sunday’s final was an entertaining affair that pitted a proven champion in Higgins against an Englishman featuring in his maiden ranking event final.
Despite the seemingly one-sided scoreline, Gilbert acquitted himself really well and will rue a couple of crucial missed opportunities that could have kept the scores closer for longer.
The opening session was well-balanced with both players trading misses and a brace of centuries to leave matters almost even as Higgins notched up a narrow 5-4 advantage.
However, while the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ continuously gifted his opponent many chances early on, that predominantly ended in the second session as the former world no.1 hastily shifted through the gears.
A further century and an 88 ensured Higgins opened up a three frame cushion for the first time in the clash before Gilbert capitalised on some rare errors to keep the match alive at 5-7.
Yet, it was the 13th frame that proved to be the big nail in the coffin for the 34 year-old.
After compiling a nice run of 54, Gilbert missed a tricky red along the top cushion and Higgins duly responded with a trademark clearance of 88 to really hurt his challenger going into the final mid-session interval.
Had Gilbert trailed by only one at the break the outcome of the tie may have been different, but as it was Higgins had manufactured breathing space and in the end was able to coast to victory in front of a large Chinese crowd.
A memorable win for Higgins then, who will rise back up to seventh in the world rankings and who must currently be considered as the most dangerous player on the circuit once again.
By contrast, a wonderful week for Gilbert ends in disappointment but there’s really nothing to feel too bad about as he simply came up against a living legend of the sport at somewhere approaching the peak of his powers.
Overall, the International Championship was a success this week, helped by the change in venue from Chengdu to Daqing which saw attendances markedly improve.
That said, it still wasn’t a packed house throughout, or even during the final for that matter, and because of that the tournament still doesn’t have the feel of a proper major event – a status it is so desperate to claim.
It’s getting there all the same, and with time and a bit of history attached the prestige will eventually come.
Its roll of honour certainly looks good, with Judd Trump, Ding Junhui and Ricky Walden now joined by John Higgins after a superb performance to be crowned champion.