John Higgins
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John Higgins on ‘great announcement’ of Saudi Arabia events

John Higgins is looking forward to returning to the Middle East after the recent announcements of new tournaments in Saudi Arabia.

The four-time world champion is happy to see snooker follow in the footsteps of other sports that have taken advantage of the riches on offer in the region.

The Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker will take place next month, featuring the top eight players from the world rankings plus two wildcards.

Next season, there will additionally be a lucrative ranking event for all the circuit’s professionals.

The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters – dubbed the “fourth major” by the World Snooker Tour – will boast a total prize fund that is second only to the blue-riband World Championship.

Given the widely reported human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, a lot of fans have expressed disdain for the sport’s decision to move into the country.

But Higgins, who competed in three editions of the Dubai Classic in the mid-1990s, is looking forward to the prospect of returning to that area of the world.

“It’s great, because we used to play out in the Middle East many years ago when I first turned pro in 1992,” John Higgins told Sportsboom.com.

“But it’s been a long break since I’ve been over there. I used to love playing in Bahrain, so hopefully this will be a similar experience.”

“All the other top sports seem to be breaking into Saudi Arabia and succeeding, so why not us?

“It’s a great announcement, and it makes it even more exciting with the 10-year-deal and the prize money going up and up. It’s great for all the tour.”

The Scot was speaking after his 6-4 victory over Ding Junhui in the first round of this week’s Players Championship.

Higgins compiled two century breaks as he fought back from 3-2 down to beat the Chinese competitor at the Telford International Centre.

“Brilliant performance from me because I’ve always struggled against Ding,” the 48 year-old added.

“He always had my number, but the last few times we faced I’ve managed to beat him. I rate him so highly, he’s just a fabulous player.”

“(My form) is getting better in comparison to the start of the year. There were a few things going wrong for me, but I’ve been fighting with my technique.

“I seem to be on top of that now, so I’m feeling much better and think I’ve got a good chance to progress onto a final now.”

Higgins, who won the Players Championship in 2021, will take on either Zhang Anda or Noppon Saengkham in the quarter-finals.

Judd Trump, meanwhile, also prevailed from his opening-round encounter on day one of the competition thanks to a 6-2 defeat of Chris Wakelin.

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan enters the fray on Tuesday evening against Zhou Yuelong.


2024 Players Championship draw

Round of 16 (bo11)

Judd Trump 6-2 Chris Wakelin
Tom Ford 2-6 Ali Carter

Mark Williams 3-6 Mark Allen
Gary Wilson 6-4 Hossein Vafaei

Zhang Anda 6-5 Noppon Saengkham
Ding Junhui 4-6 John Higgins

Barry Hawkins 3-6 Mark Selby
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Zhou Yuelong

Quarter-Finals (bo11)

Judd Trump 4-6 Ali Carter
Mark Allen 6-4 Gary Wilson

Zhang Anda 6-4 John Higgins
Mark Selby 6-0 Ronnie O’Sullivan

Semi-Finals (bo11)

Ali Carter 3-6 Mark Allen
Zhang Anda 6-5 Mark Selby

Final (bo19)

Mark Allen 10-8 Zhang Anda


Featured photo credit: WST

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