Higgins revival continues with record-equalling Australian Open crown
Four-time world champion John Higgins has maintained his recent return to form after securing the Australian Open crown, his second title triumph this calendar year after claiming the Welsh Open last February.
The 40-year-old has endured a two-year slump in illustrious career, faltering in many of the top events during that poor spell, but the victory Down Under brings his tally of ranking title wins to 27, level with Ronnie O’Sullivan on the all-time list (40/1 with Coral to win fifth world title in 2016).
Scooping the £36k prize fund in Bendigo, the experienced Scot is now just one tournament win away from boyhood hero Steve Davis’ record of 28 ranking title wins, but has some catching up to do on fellow countryman and king of the baize Stephen Hendry on 36.
Higgins, who turned 40 in May, is proving that age is no longer a barrier in the sport, something recently-crowned 39-year-old world champion Stuart Bingham also highlighted at the Crucible this year (25/1 to retain title).
Although, next year’s coveted Crucible crown could be the toughest battle Higgins and the older generation of potters have faced in their careers, with many young talented cueists emerging, including a possible dominance from Chinese prospects.
Backing up his Welsh Open coup earlier in the year, Higgins toppled the talented Martin Gould in the Australian final, impressively knocking in breaks of 90, 112, 68, 60 and a well-taken 89 in the deciding frame as he held his nerve to triumph.
Along the path to his 27th ranking title, ‘the Wizard of Wishaw’ dispatched Michael Georgiou, Fergal O’Brien, Joe Perry and Jamie Jones, before narrowly overcoming world number 24 Gould.
Gould has never claimed a ranking crown in his career, but has showed he has the potting credentials capable of doing so in the near future, with the Londoner having rattled in breaks of 101, 86, 89 and sublime 138 before succumbing to defeat.
After showing the grit and drive that has made him a four-time Crucible king during a prestigious snooker career, Higgins hailed his final opponent following another victory where he continued his fightback in form.
“It was one of the best finals I’ve ever been involved in,” stated Higgins. “Credit to Martin because it was a brilliant match, I’m sure he’ll start winning tournaments now.
“I wasn’t feeling any nerves at the end. I missed the chance to win 9-7 and he made a great break for 8-8. It was anyone’s game and I managed to hold myself together in the last frame, so I’m delighted.”
Higgins will hope to continue this rejuvenated run of form throughout the new season, in which the Australian Open was the first tournament of, with all roads leading towards the UK Championship in November (33/1 to win).
Before vying for his fourth UK crown, 16 years after his maiden triumph, Higgins could draw level with Davis on 28 ranking victories, with many tournaments taking place before his latest appearance at the Barbican Centre in York.
Though, having continued to recapture form on the baize with victory in the season’s opening event, despite previously struggling with confidence and consistency, Higgins is living up to his nickname as ‘the Toughest’ after cementing his place further as one of snooker’s all-time greats.