Higgins Players final
Finals, Main News, Ranking

John Higgins Hammers Ronnie O’Sullivan in Players Final

Victory for the Scot comes almost three years to the day since his last ranking success.

A magnificent John Higgins has won the Players Championship after a comfortable 10-3 triumph over Ronnie O’Sullivan in Sunday’s final at the Marshall Arena.

The Wizard of Wishaw continued his superb form from this week to thoroughly dismantle what was a tame challenge from his old rival.

The contest between a pair of the all-time greats of the game was hyped to the hilt, but it failed to deliver in terms of drama and excitement.

Higgins took advantage of a nervy start to win a scrappy opening frame, but from there the four-time world champion cut a composed figure.

The 45 year-old lost only one frame en route to the final, and he continued to dominate the table by winning the opening five frames with terrific contributions of 92, 68, 142, and 138.

O’Sullivan stopped the rot with an 82 break and had several opportunities to reduce the arrears again in the seventh frame.

But the Rocket lost patience and went a do-or-die effort too far, with Higgins gratefully mopping up for a 6-1 lead.

A mesmerising 144 total clearance for O’Sullivan to conclude the opening session demonstrated the kind of level he could produce, but it was a mere dent in the impenetrable armour of Higgins.

Heading into the evening bout of play the world champion knew that he required a fast start, but more misses left his pot success rate below 80% and all Higgins had to do was wait for his moment to pounce.

The duo traded frames before measured breaks of 70 and 77 took Higgins to the brink of victory at the final mid-session interval.

In fitting fashion, Higgins rounded the final off in style with a composed effort of 127 to raise the Players Championship trophy aloft in addition to pocketing a tidy sum of £125,000.

The hiding was somewhat reminiscent of the last time Higgins and O’Sullivan clashed in a ranking event final, all the way back in the 2005 Grand Prix when the former triumphed with a 9-2 scoreline.

Although still a regular fixture at the business end of events in recent years, the last ranking title Higgins claimed was the 2018 Welsh Open – a long spell in the doldrums for a player of his calibre.

It brings his overall career tally to 31, six shy of O’Sullivan’s record and it comes 27 years after he recorded his first.

Higgins was a dominant force from his very first outing of the tournament, when he humbled last week’s Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown 6-0.

Another whitewash followed against Mark Selby before he finally lost a frame in his 6-1 defeat of Kyren Wilson in the last four.

The Scot has put his return to supreme form down to a minor change in his technique – now addressing his cue closer to the cue ball before he executes his shot.

The difference was noticeable in January’s Masters when he reached the final only to be denied by Yan Bingtao.

For O’Sullivan, it was a final defeat on successive Sundays and a fourth reverse of the season at the penultimate hurdle.

Higgins was by far the better player, but what would have been worrying for O’Sullivan’s fans was his level of effort, with a performance that was almost resigned in defeat from the outset.

The final was an anti-climatic affair, but there was no taking way from the fact that Higgins was at the very top of his game.

Indeed, there was no stopping him this week, and the former world number one must now be considered as a huge contender for the upcoming World Championship in Sheffield.

Featured photo credit: WST


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