John Higgins has told fans to enjoy a lockdown treat with a few beers tonight as he takes on rival Ronnie O’Sullivan in a titanic Masters quarter-final.
Record seven-time Masters winner O’Sullivan and twice champion Higgins are meeting for an incredible 70 th time on tour after both turning pro 29 years ago.
Between them, as well as nine Masters crowns, the pair have claimed another 116 titles in their illustrious careers including 10 World Championship victories.
Higgins, without a major title for almost three years, said: “Playing Ronnie on a Friday night at the Masters…a lot of sports are not happening at the moment.
“So hopefully it will be a good night and we can put on a show – get the beers in, order a Chinese takeaway and enjoy a good match.
“Hand on heart I don’t think with Ronnie it has ever spilled over into anything other than a friendly rivalry – there is too much respect both ways.
“I first read about him in magazines when I was a junior. But at that time, I was not at a level where I was thinking ‘He could be my rival’ because when I was 14 or 15, I wasn’t that good.
“And then it just happened over six months for me. I went down to London for the Mita World Masters and no one had heard of me.
“But I beat Ronnie and then played Mark Williams in the final and they were asking ‘Who is this guy?’. I was a nobody!
“However Ronnie has been the benchmark ever since I turned professional. Stephen Hendry was the main man at the time, but I always felt that at some point Ronnie would take over that mantle.
“And when I retire from this game I will be happy that we have had such a good and friendly rivalry for all those years.
“It is brilliant that after all those years we are still here and competing. I have seen it all against Ronnie – I have won big and lost big against him, with also many tight matches.
“We have played more matches against each other than Steve Davis and Jimmy White now and when I was growing up that was the big rivalry.”
As reigning and six-time world champion O’Sullivan will start clear favourite – but he knows better than to take anything for granted against class act Higgins.
World No3 O’Sullivan said: “John has definitely been my greatest rival throughout my career and at several times hewas my main motivation to get better.
“I knew he as a better professional than me, and had a better all-round game so I needed to work on stuff to try and compete with him.
“And even if he hasn’t won a title for a bit no one should ever write him off. It is getting harder to win tournaments.
“There are three or four players around now with Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Mark Allen, Ding Junhui…they are all in their prime.
“And that makes it harder for me and John to win titles. But snooker is such a confidence game and if you have that and also have the ability, you will always be a danger whatever your age.”
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