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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

UK Championship Preview

Today the eyes of the snooker world focus on York for the start of the 2015 UK Championship.

This of course is traditionally the games second biggest prize and despite what has seemed a determined effort to destroy it recent years,it still remain so in the minds of most snooker people.

Personally I still can't understand why this event couldn't have been  given a similar protected status to that given to the World Championship,but we are where we are and 128 players will start out today in the hope of lifting the title.

One man who isn't there is the defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan,who is still to play a competitive shot this season,though reports at the weekend suggest he will be back for the Masters.

In his absence we are left with a wide open tournament that you could maybe name 6 or 7 players as the winner and any one of them wouldn't be a surprise.

On the evidence of this season so far John Higgins would have to high on anyones list of contenders.A years ago it seemed his career was in terminal decline,but he has lifted two ranking titles already this season & a repeat of the form he showed in the International Championship would make him man to beat here.

Other players who will be buoyed up by recent good form will be Neil Robertson,who won the recent Champion of Champions & the man he beat in that final Mark Allen who had lifted the a PTC event the week before.

Things have not gone so well this season for our world champions Stuart Bingham,who has struggled under the weight of the crown,but the chance to hold both titles at the same time might give him an extra incentive here.

Also in the "yet to set the world on fire" category we can put the likes of Mark Selby & Judd Trump you can never rule either of these two men out & indeed that can be extended to Ding Junhui & Shaun Murphy.

So all in all we are in for 12 days of fascinating snooker with the BBC coverage starting at the weekend.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

International Championship - Higgins Rules Supreme

John Higgins today added the 2015 International Championship title to his list of career wins beating David Gilbert 10-5 in the final in Daqing.

This,Higgins second title of the season,having already lifted the Australian Open in July,will have all the more significance for the Scot,because it draws him level with his boyhood hero Steve Davis on the 28 ranking title mark.

Strangely that 28th title for Davis came in the Welsh Open in 1995 where he beat a 19 year old John Higgins & it was in the Welsh Open earlier this year that Higgins finally ended a 29 month title drought,a win that it now seems has sparked new life into a career that was just threatening fade out.

Any obituaries that were been written then though can now well and truly be torn up as what we saw this week was the vintage Higgins that lifted three world titles in five years between 2007-2011.

The final itself  was a high quality affair and his opponent David Gilbert,who was appearing in his first ranking final,can maybe curse his luck a bit that he ran into someone playing so well,as on another day,against another opponent, he could really have gone close to his maiden victory

As it was he did well here to stay in touch for so long and may will look at a couple of possible turning points like in frame 6 where Higgins nicked it on the colours and frame 13 where he missed a tricky red on 54 & Higgins dished with 88 to to go 8-5.It was that frame that seemed to finally break the Englishman as he lost the next two after the interval to go down 10-5.

Gilbert has always struck me as one of those players who might just be one good run in a big tournament away from really kicking on & making a name for himself in the game.Hopefully now for him that time has come.

Today though belongs to John Higgins.As well as drawing him level with Davis, this win also moved him ahead of Ronnie O'Sullivan on the ranking titles list. That seemed unlikely to happen around this time last yr as Ronnie was claiming a fifth UK title & Higgins was struggling so badly for form.Here we are now though almost 12 months later with Ronnie yet to hit a ball in anger this season and Higgins looking to the future with renewed hope.Not only that,he seems to have also rediscovered the consistency that is needed to compete for the games real big prizes.A fifth world title for the Wizard of Wishaw come next May anyone?