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Scottish Open: Semi-Final Preview

Well, it took a scintillating performance from old foe John Higgins to put an end to Ronnie O’Sullivan’s end-of-year dominance.

John Higgins India 17 (WS)
Higgins won the Indian Open in the summer. Photo credit: World Snooker

After a hat-trick of ranking crowns in the last couple of months, the “Rocket” was already running on empty as he reached the quarter-finals of the Scottish Open in Glasgow.

But there wasn’t much that even a fit and alert O’Sullivan could do against Higgins on Friday evening, with the home favourite producing a dominant display to finally get one over on his fierce rival.

Higgins had lost the previous four encounters with his fellow 42 year-old this season but gained a modicum of revenge by hammering O’Sullivan with a whitewash win.

A runner-up twelve months ago at the Emirates Arena, Higgins compiled breaks of 117, 109, 105, 72, and 55 in a breathtaking show of power scoring that his in-form opponent could do little to prevent.

Higgins looked a sorry sight only a week ago in York when he prematurely bowed of the UK Championship in a 6-5 defeat to Mark King, suggesting in his post-match press conference that it was the beginning of the end for his career.

However, the four-time world champion would ironically take inspiration from O’Sullivan’s brilliance in capturing a record-equalling sixth UK title at the Barbican on Sunday night and Higgins is now only two further victories away from a 30th ranking title of his own.

The “Wizard of Wishaw” will face Neil Robertson in the last four after the Australian reached this stage of a ranking event for the first time in 14 months courtesy of a magnificent 5-4 triumph over Xiao Guodong.

In one of the matches of the season so far, the pair traded sizable contributions in every frame but Robertson’s trio of tons ultimately proved vital as he continued his resurgence of late.

Higgins and Robertson share an even head-to-head record with seven wins apiece from their prior fixtures, but the pair hasn’t crossed paths in just over two years since the latter’s 6-5 win in the 2015 UK Championship – a tournament the Melbourne man went on to prevail in.

Robertson also emerged victorious in arguably their most high-profile clash in the 2013 Wuxi Classic final, but Higgins has been the more consistent player over the last couple of years and will have the home following firmly on his side.

If the duo can repeat their surge of scoring this week, with an amazing 15 centuries between them since the outset of the tournament, it could prove to be a barnstorming affair.

The other semi-final will be contested between Judd Trump and Cao Yupeng in a repeat of their last four bout in the European Masters in October.

On that occasion, Trump obviously got the better of his Chinese challenger before going on to defend his trophy in Belgium for his sole ranking success of the season so far.

The Englishman is still searching for optimum consistency and his overall record in the major championships leaves a lot to be desired for someone of his ability, but eight ranking event finals and four pieces of silverware in just over a year and a half suggests he’s doing something right.

Cao, meanwhile, has been one of the most improved cueists on the circuit during this campaign, indeed one of a number of the current crop of Chinese talents who have begun to shine more regularly.

The 27 year-old made headlines earlier in the event with his maiden 147 break, an achievement that if unmatched will earn him £22,000, and he’ll be seeking to make a better account of himself in this encounter with Trump compared to the 6-1 reverse he suffered in Lommel.

That said, Trump will undoubtedly be the heavy favourite to advance to what would be his third final of this term.

Either way, it’s an intriguing conclusion in store as the last ranking event champion of 2017 is determined this weekend in Scotland.

Live coverage continues on Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)

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