John Higgins and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh will face each other in the first round of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
John Higgins’ season so far
What a strange season it has been for John Higgins.
For the majority of other players on the Main Tour, his record during this term would be a thing to envy.
But for Higgins, there will be a huge chunk of regret at what might have been on so many occasions.
The Wizard of Wishaw has featured in six finals but has only managed to claim silverware in the behind-closed-doors invitational edition of the Championship League.
Elsewhere, there have been runners-up finishes in the Northern Ireland Open, English Open, Scottish Open, Champion of Champions, and the Tour Championship.
In three of those title deciders, he threw away leads when within the brink of glory – none more heartbreaking than in the recent Tour Championship when he surrendered a 9-4 advantage against Neil Robertson.
Higgins remains one of the sport’s very best and is, of course, a four-time former world champion.
However, his streak of misery in finals actually began with his hat-trick of final defeats in Sheffield between 2017 and 2019.
The 46 year-old may be able to get himself into the position to challenge again, but does he still possess the inner belief required to finish the job when it matters most?
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh’s season so far
At one point during this season, it really looked as though Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was going to suffer relegation from the pro tour.
That would have been a cataclysmic demise considering he qualified for the Masters last year as a member of the top 16.
A few morale-boosting victories in Turkey and Gibraltar paved the way for redemption, and Un-Nooh duly emerged from the qualifiers with three hard-fought successes to guarantee survival.
The talented 36 year-old, one of the fastest and most exciting players on the circuit when in full flow, has not had a kind history at the Crucible.
Un-Nooh actually lost to Higgins on his debut back in 2018, and followed that up with first-round ties against eventual champions Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Higgins and Un-Nooh’s most high-profile clash came at this stage of the World Championship four years ago.
On that occasion, the Scot prevailed with a 10-7 scoreline and Higgins boasts a 5-2 overall head-to-head advantage.
If Higgins had held on for victory in Llandudno earlier this month, he would probably enter Sheffield as one of the big favourites.
Such is his experience and pedigree on the big stage, it would be foolish to rule him out completely, but all those close defeats in finals will certainly leave some scars.
Still, it would be a surprise to see him exit in the first round, and he should have too much for the unpredictable Un-Nooh.
Prediction: John Higgins 10-6 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Tuesday, April 19th – 2:30pm
Wednesday, April 20th – 10am
Featured photo credit: WST