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John Higgins high on hope after impressive Welsh Open triumph

John Higgins cruised past Ben Woollaston with a 9-3 victory to triumph in year’s Welsh Open, securing his first ranking title for two-and-a-half years.

The Scot, 33/1 with Coral to win the World Championship in May, this week showed glimpses of his past ferocious form which has previously helped him to triumph on four previous occasions at the Crucible.

Higgins made brilliant breaks of 84 and 105 on his way to building a comfortable 3-1 lead early on, before luckily grabbing the final frame before the interval, after fluking on a shot on the green.

‘The Wizard of Wishaw’ then breezed past his inexperienced opponent, rediscovering his killer potting instinct to dispatch Woollaston, by claiming four consecutive frames to win his fourth ever Welsh title.

With UK Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan recently making history, after overcoming Stephen Hendry’s all-time century breaks record, and both potters having won three Welsh crowns, Higgins was proud to have picked up a personal accolade of his own after his fourth success.

“It’s a good feeling. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry have all the records sewn up so it’s good to have a little one,” said Higgins.

“It’s been tough (his poor spell). It’s great to come out and win and to be fair, nothing went right for Ben. I know what it’s like to be in a first final and he will be in many more so well done to him.”

Leicester-born Woollaston had an incredible run on the way to this year’s final, toppling Mark Davis, Mark Allen, Ali Carter and Mark Williams to set up his debut in a ranking final, and is 250/1 to cause a stunning upset at the Crucible this year.

Despite stumbling to a final defeat at the hands of experienced Higgins, the world number 36 is set to reap some reward of his potting exploits in Cardiff, with a possible leap into the top 32 world rankings now looking likely.

The 27-year-old was one of many players to have conquered the top ranked stars of the sport, with O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy all suffering early exits to supposedly inferior opposition in this shorter formatted event.

However, circuit veteran Higgins dug deep to prevail and put himself in the running for a Crucible coup when the World Championship kick-starts in three months’ time.

Scottish potter Higgins has always been a strong character, overcoming battles on and off the baize to triumph in an amazing 26 ranking titles, including four world crowns, with his last success coming in 2011.

The Wizard will take confidence from his recent reverse in form, with his sights being placed firmly on capturing a fifth World Championship title this season.

Another triumph in snooker’s greatest event isn’t out of the question for Higgins, despite his competition being fierce, with the prolific potter’s last world win coming in the same year of his previous Welsh victory. Will this be a good omen for the Wizard of Wishaw?

Having done a Welsh and world title double in 2011, Higgins will be aiming to do so this year again, as he shows no signs of shying away from a challenge in the later stages of his successful career.

“I’ve always been the sort of player where after a high comes a low,” said Higgins. “That kept me going. I’ve been on a low the last couple of years but you have to keep on believing there’s a high round the corner. I have another high and hopefully I can keep it going for a while.”

The Crucible’s showcase event breaks off on April 18 with five-time winner ‘the Rocket’ O’Sullivan a strong 15/8 favourite, while reigning champion Mark Selby is a fourth-favourite and available at 8/1.