Playing the best snooker of his 29-year career, John Higgins hammered Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-3 in the final of the Cazoo Players Championship to win his first ranking title in three years.
Remarkably, Higgins won the tournament for the loss of just four frames, having beaten Jordan Brown 6-0, Mark Selby 6-0 and Kyren Wilson 6-1 en route to the final in Milton Keynes. Against O’Sullivan, Higgins made three centuries and five more breaks over 50 as he romped to the £125,000 top prize and captured his 31st ranking title.
A change to his technique, moving the cue tip closer to the white ball at address, has worked wonders for Higgins in recent weeks. The Scot was runner-up to Yan Bingtao at the Masters and has gone one better this week to land his first ranking crown since the 2018 Welsh Open. At the age of 45 and having been a pro since 1992, he insists he has never struck the ball more cleanly and with such control and confidence.
The result lifts him one place to fifth in the world rankings, and crucially boosts him from tenth to fourth on the one-year list and guarantees his place at the Cazoo Tour Championship at the end f March. No doubt Higgins will already have one eye on the Crucible in the Spring; in this week’s form he will be a mighty force.
O’Sullivan misses out on a 38th ranking title and third Players Championship crown. He has now lost four finals since conquering the Crucible for a sixth time last August. He was beaten by Judd Trump at the Northern Ireland Open, Mark Selby at the Scottish Open, Jordan Brown at the BetVictor Welsh Open and now Higgins. In truth, no opponent could have lived with Higgins this week, so strong was he in every department.
Leading 6-2 after the first session, Higgins took the first frame tonight with a break 51, initiated by a tricky thin cut on a red to a baulk corner. O’Sullivan hit back with a break of 110, the fourth century of the match, but didn’t score a point in the next two frames as Higgins made 70 and 77 to lead 9-3 at the interval.
Fittingly, Higgins wrapped up the match in frame 13 with another century, a superb 127.
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