The Champion of Champions final will be contested between Judd Trump and John Higgins in Bolton on Sunday, with the winner set to land the £150,000 top prize.
While Trump is bidding for a maiden Champion of Champions crown following two previous defeats in title deciders, Higgins is attempting to add to his prior glory from 2016.
The pair emerged from vastly contrasting semi-final encounters, with Trump thrashing Kyren Wilson 6-0 on Friday evening before a marathon match on Saturday that saw Higgins prevail against Yan Bingtao.
That fixture required all eleven frames and wasn’t completed until after midnight, which could potentially have an impact on the Scot’s energy levels later today.
Higgins, of course, is featuring at this late stage of a tournament for the third time on the trot after earlier narrow misses this season in the Northern Ireland Open and the English Open.
Following his loss in the latter, in which he let slip an 8-6 lead to lose 9-8 to Neil Robertson much in the same way as he had done against Mark Allen in Belfast, the four-time world champion rashly claimed that he couldn’t win trophies at this level any more.
Higgins admitted this week that he was perhaps too critical on himself and his performances – backed up by another superb week on the baize – but he certainly has his work cut out for him in this Champion of Champions final.
In a repeat of the 2011 and 2019 World Championship finals, Trump will begin as the obvious favourite after losing just one solitary frame in getting to this point.
There have been a few doubts cast over Trump’s remarkable achievements in recent times, with some claiming that too many of his triumphs have come in the smaller events while not enough silverware has been landed in the more prestigious ones.
With a mostly elite field the Champion of Champions definitely fits into the latter bracket, so emerging with the trophy aloft on Sunday evening would help silence those critics.
At one time Trump struggled badly against Higgins, and indeed still boasts an inferior head-to-head record against the Wizard of Wishaw, but the overall outlook has dramatically changed since that mesmerising Crucible display more than two years ago.
Since then, the Englishman has beaten Higgins nine times in a row in all competitions – including several big quarter-final and semi-final clashes in ranking events.
Higgins will have to rely on all of the matchplay qualities that were in evidence against Yan if he’s going to be able to live with the 32 year-old.
The former world number one’s last title came in last season’s Players Championship when he hammered Ronnie O’Sullivan, one of five final defeats for the Rocket during the 2020/21 campaign.
That unprecedented run has prompted Trump to claim that O’Sullivan lacks self-belief, and after a somewhat similar fruitless period for Higgins, self-belief may just be the determining factor if the scores are tight near the end in this tie.
Trump is not lacking in that department, and if the Bristol potter can bring close to his A-game, it’s difficult to see how he won’t end up with his name on the cup.
Live coverage of the Champion of Champions final is available on ITV4 in Ireland and the UK, with other options on offer for broadcasts around the world.
Featured photo credit: WST