The 2021 English Open final will be contested between Neil Robertson and John Higgins at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on Sunday.
A week-long saga has seen the field whittled down to the last two contenders for the Steve Davis Trophy, the second offering from this season’s Home Nations Series.
Higgins reached the title decider on Saturday afternoon thanks to a dramatic come-from-behind 6-5 victory over old rival Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The Scot trailed 5-3 but rallied in typical fashion to force a deciding frame, which duly ebbed one way and then the other under tense circumstances before Higgins prevailed on the green and brown.
Later on the penultimate day of the competition, Robertson fought back in somewhat similar fashion to outlast Mark King 6-4, having at one point trailed 4-2.
A scrappy affair finally burst into life in the seventh frame when the Australian scored a century break to reduce his arrears to one, and after restoring parity Robertson added contributions of 101 and 84 to complete the turnaround.
The 2021 English Open final will be contested then between two players who will be looked to put right recent disappointments in Home Nations events.
Robertson was denied success in last year’s English Open at the bitter end when he lost 9-8 to Judd Trump, while Higgins suffered the same fate in last month’s Northern Ireland Open when he tasted defeat against Mark Allen in Belfast.
Both players will have their eyes on the £70,000 top prize but also a worthy addition to their impressive CVs that already boast 51 ranking titles between them.
Their most recent glories each came in last season’s Cazoo Series, with Higgins winning the Players Championship and Robertson subsequently triumphing in the Tour Championship.
Against each other, the pair’s head-to-head doesn’t offer much in the way of a signal to where the outcome of this encounter may lie.
From their 24 previous battles in all competitions, Higgins holds a slender 12-11 lead (with one draw) and their most recent clash was all the way back at the 2019 World Championship.
Robertson emerged victoriously from their only previous ranking event final – the 2013 Wuxi Classic – although Higgins did win the minor-ranking Bulgarian Open at the Melbourne man’s expense just two weeks earlier.
It’s a difficult fixture to call, because as Robertson openly admitted this week, he is more comfortable when matches are of an open nature.
That was evident in his semi-final tie when he got bogged down in the early part of the match and was punished, only to unleash the scoring beast later on to great success.
Against Higgins, he comes up against arguably the greatest all-round player there’s ever been, and a player who can tie opponents up in knots with strangling tactical awareness but then also strike with sizable contributions when required.
What may be of concern for the Wizard of Wishaw was his inability to get over the line against Allen in Belfast, and he was very nervy again in a somewhat fortuitous beating of the Rocket yesterday.
Either way, it promises to be another fascinating addition to the Home Nations series, which has produced so many enthralling showdowns for silverware since its introduction five years ago.
Live coverage of the 2021 English Open final will be on Eurosport, Quest, and Matchroom.Live (selected countries).
Featured photo credit: WST