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Head-to-Head: Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins Finals

The pair enjoy a long history of facing each other with silverware on the line.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins will add to their list of encounters in finals when they compete for Players Championship glory on Sunday at the Marshall Arena.

There will be a champion’s cheque worth £125,000 on the line as they encounter each other for a record-extending 71st time in all competitions since turning professional at the same time in 1992.

A staggering 17 of those have been title-deciding contests, underlining their longevity as two of the game’s all-time greats.

Let’s take a brief look back at all of the previous finals between O’Sullivan and Higgins since their first 26 years ago.



1995 Masters: O’Sullivan 9-3 Higgins

Their fourth meeting overall but a first in a final, the duo stunned their fellow top-16 members to reach the last two of the Masters while both aged just 19.

O’Sullivan duly became the youngest winner of the prestigious invitational with a 9-3 drubbing of Higgins, in what would transpire to be the first of three Masters finals against one another.

1995 British Open: Higgins 9-6 O’Sullivan

Higgins bounced back strongly to win the International Open at Steve Davis’ expense the week after that year’s Masters, and less than two months later he gained his quick revenge on the Rocket with a 9-6 victory in the final of the British Open.

Their tug-of-war rivalry at the business end of some of the biggest events on the calendar had well and truly begun.

1996 Charity Challenge: O’Sullivan 9-6 Higgins

A unique invitational in which the players competed for their respective charities, it was O’Sullivan who picked up the £30,000 cheque on this occasion.

It was a victory that stood as the Englishman’s only one of what transpired to be a disappointing 1995/96 campaign in general.

1998 Scottish Open: O’Sullivan 9-5 Higgins

Higgins was in the midst of a remarkable run of form that would see him reach six out of the eight ranking event finals of the 1997/98 snooker season.

The Wizard of Wishaw ended the term as the world champion and the world number one, but O’Sullivan had the last laugh on the Scotsman’s home turf.

1998 Charity Challenge: Higgins 9-8 O’Sullivan

Still, a mere week after that loss Higgins got one back on his rival, and indeed made up for his previous reverse in the Charity Challenge from two years earlier.

Higgins withstood a late comeback from his opponent to prevail in a deciding frame – their first final to last the distance.

1998 Scottish Masters: O’Sullivan 9-7 Higgins

Around this period it seemed as though they could only cross paths in finals of the Charity Challenge or in Scotland.

Higgins was again denied on his own territory – this time in Motherwell – as O’Sullivan took the invitational spoils.

1999 Charity Challenge: Higgins 9-4 O’Sullivan

Back to Derby for, you guessed it, the Charity Challenge – the last time the tournament was staged under this guise.

O’Sullivan had reached the last four finals in the competition but it was to be three consecutive losses at that hurdle as Higgins won for a second successive season.

2001 World Championship: O’Sullivan 18-14 Higgins

Their first of ten finals between O’Sullivan and Higgins after the turn of the century may not have been their best battle, but it was certainly their biggest.

O’Sullivan had watched fellow Class of ’92 members Higgins and Mark Williams both claim the big one in Sheffield, and now it was his finally his turn, making the most of his first-session 6-2 buffer to successfully hold the 1998 champion at bay.

2001 Scottish Masters: Higgins 9-6 O’Sullivan

Higgins didn’t wallow in self pity and recovered to secure triumphs in the first three events of the 2001/02 snooker season.

Finally, he managed to get one over O’Sullivan in Scotland – a 9-6 victory at the Scottish Masters in Glasgow.

2002 Premier League: O’Sullivan 9-4 Higgins

If there was ever a tournament that was dominated by one particular player, it was Matchroom’s Premier League.

O’Sullivan won the tournament nine times between 2001 and 2011 and ten times in total, with the third of those successes coming against Higgins in 2002.

2002 Scottish Masters: O’Sullivan 9-4 Higgins

Returning to Glasgow for the start of the 2002/03 campaign, it was a fourth title-deciding fixture in four years between the pair in Scotland.

O’Sullivan made it a hat-trick of titles, and it was around now when it appeared as though they only ever crossed paths at this stage of a tournament.

2003 Irish Masters: O’Sullivan 10-9 Higgins

Yes, aside from a couple of Premier League round-robin ties thrown into the hat, there would be a flurry of further finals between O’Sullivan and Higgins in the space of just a few years.

At the Citywest Hotel in Dublin for the first Irish Masters staged as a ranking event, O’Sullivan delighted his legion of Irish followers with a terrific 10-9 triumph that concluded with a wonderful break of 128 in the final frame.

2005 Masters: O’Sullivan 10-3 Higgins

O’Sullivan made it four wins on the bounce in finals against his esteemed rival with a thumping in the 2005 Masters.

Two of Higgins’ best ever career victories, however, were just around the corner.

2005 Grand Prix: Higgins 9-2 O’Sullivan

Later that year at the Guild Hall in Preston, Higgins produced a performance for the ages to dismantle the challenge of O’Sullivan, who was by now the undisputed world number one.

Higgins became the first player to compile four consecutive century breaks and scored 494 points without reply – a record at the time.

2006 Masters: Higgins 10-9 O’Sullivan

Perhaps their most iconic encounter overall, the Wembley Conference Centre was given an appropriately dramatic send-off in what was an edge-of-your-seat climax to the 2006 Masters in London.

Leading by 60 points in the deciding frame, O’Sullivan watched as Higgins orchestrated a trademark killer clearance of 64 to clinch his second Masters crown on the final black.

2007 Premier League: O’Sullivan 7-4 Higgins

O’Sullivan and success in Premier League finals were just about as sure a thing as you could get in snooker.

It was a fourth victory in the event in a row for the Rocket, but it brought an abrupt end to his sequence of having played Higgins in a final during every calendar year bar three since 1995.

2016 Champion of Champions: Higgins 10-7 O’Sullivan

It took nine more years for O’Sullivan and Higgins to battle in another final, which turned out to be their most recent.

O’Sullivan had been unbeaten in the Champion of Champions across three years of participation in the event, but Higgins brought an end to that with a memorable 10-7 conquering in Coventry.

2021 Players Championship: ?

More than four years on and they are amazingly back again on centre stage with the trophy on the line to fight for.

O’Sullivan boasts a 10-7 lead from their previous encounters at this stage, and it promises to be another fascinating clash of the titans in Milton Keynes.

Featured photo credit: Champion of Champions Snooker



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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the World Snooker Championship – won by Mark Selby.

1. Judd Trump
2. Mark Selby
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan
4. Neil Robertson
5. Shaun Murphy
6. Kyren Wilson
7. John Higgins
8. Ding Junhui
9. Stephen Maguire
10. Yan Bingtao
11. Mark Williams
12. Mark Allen
13. Barry Hawkins
14. Jack Lisowski
15. Stuart Bingham
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy