John Higgins says he’s looking forward to renewing ‘a healthier rivalry’ with Mark Williams when the pair clash in the quarter-finals of the Masters on Thursday.
The Scot was in a good mood after contributing a brace of century breaks to beat UK champion Zhao Xintong 6-2 in the first round at the Alexandra Palace in London.
Higgins and Williams, with a combined age of 92, make up two from the famous Class of ’92 trio alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan – with their rivalry going on strong even into a fourth decade on the Main Tour.
“I think now it’s a healthier rivalry,” Higgins, who has a superior head-to-head record against Williams, told the World Snooker Tour.
“Maybe ten or 15 years ago we were in the top four of the game and fighting for the same titles, but now we’ve dropped down a little bit.”
“We can still win events, but I think on my side it’s definitely a more healthy rivalry. You look across at him and you think, ‘I’ve shared the snooker table with him for nearly 30 years,’ and it’s just more admiration on my part.
“When I play the guys like Mark and Ronnie now, they’re still playing to an unbelievable level, and when I’m playing against them it’s a special feeling.
“It might not be our last time, there might be another few times, but to play him in such an iconic arena we’ve got now, I can’t wait for Thursday night – it should be great.”
From 63 previous battles in all competitions, Higgins boasts a 36-23 advantage with four draws thrown into the mix as well, and the Wizard of Wishaw emerged triumphantly from their most recent meeting at the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast a few months ago.
Several of the most high-profile games in the history of the sport have been contested between the pair, including memorable title-deciding showdowns in both the 2010 UK Championship and 2018 World Championship finals.
Williams referenced the latter when he spoke after his opening fixture on Sunday in which he overcame defending Masters champion Yan Bingtao, and the Welshman was similarly keen on renewing his rivalry with Higgins.
“I’d like to play John, I think,” the two-time Masters champion said. “We’ve been around forever now, haven’t we? He’s getting older, greyer, balder, and I’m getting older, greyer, balder.”
“It’s just nice to play him, especially out in there. It would be a fantastic crowd in I’d imagine, and it’d just be like the Crucible back in 2018 – it’d be brilliant.”
Elsewhere on day two, Barry Hawkins won the last five frames to beat Shaun Murphy 6-2 and set up a last-eight affair against either Mark Selby or Stephen Maguire.
2022 Masters Draw
Yan Bingtao (1) 4-6 Mark Williams (9)
John Higgins (8) 6-2 Zhao Xintong (10)
Neil Robertson (5) 6-3 Anthony McGill (16)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (4) vs Jack Lisowski (14)
Judd Trump (3) vs Mark Allen (12)
Kyren Wilson (6) vs Stuart Bingham (15)
Shaun Murphy (7) 2-6 Barry Hawkins (11)
Mark Selby (2) vs Stephen Maguire (13)
Featured photo credit: WST