The 2018 world final will be a case of back to the future as John Higgins faces off against his fellow "class of 92" graduate Mark Williams for the games biggest prize.
First up John Higgins reached his seventh Crucible decider after a hard fought victory over Kyren Wilson..I said in my preview of this match that if Wilson were to win this, he probably needed a good start to capitalise on any tiredness Higgins may have been feeling after his last eight tussle with Trump, but although Higgins was visibly showing signs of fatigue, Wilson couldn't make the most of it and Higgins would have been delighted to emerge with a 5-3 lead from the opening session.
This turned out to be the key moment in this one as,try as he might over the following two days Wilson was continuously playing catch up. If the match against Trump showed Higgins's at his determined best,this match showed just what a dogged matchplayer he can be,even when not at his best For large parts of this match Higgins scoring just wasn't there,but he kept eking out the frames he needed to maintain his advantage throughout.
Starting today he still lead by two at 13-11 and by the mid session interval that had moved along to 15-13.From here it was fight to the line and as so often in the past This was where Higgins showed his class,knocking in breaks of 100 & 98 to seal a 17-13 win.
So for Higgins a chance to right the wrongs of last years final defeat to Selby, for Wilson some time to reflect on a season that saw him reach a Masters final & experience the one table set up at the Crucible for the first time.He can take a lot of positives from what he did here & it would be a shock if we don't see at the business end here for many years to come.
The other semi final seemed to following a similar pattern as Hawkins opened up an early two frame lead at 5-3,that turned into 9-7 & 13-11 over the next two sessions.
The standard had been pretty high in this in this one over the first 24 frames,but with a place in the final at stake, that was not to continue into the final session.
Twitching was the name of the game as the last session turned into a bit of a slog with both players struggling to find some rhythm. It was Williams though who was putting the frames on the board and he levelled things up at the interval at 14-14.
Best of 33 had now become best of 5,but by now nothing was coming easy to either of these two great competitors.Hawkins did edge ahead again at 15-14,but William again drew level ,before taking the lead for the first time in the match at 16-15.
The next frame was a long tense affair,but eventually Williams potted a marvellous long pink and then rolled in the black to reach the world final for the first time in 15 years.
So will it be a 5th title for Higgins or a 3rd for Williams?
Well after 15 gruelling days of competition, the world final always to some degree comes down to who has the most left in the tank and this time that might be even more relevant than ever .These two great champions have been pushed to the limit at various times over the fortnight and it could very easily boil down to who has something left for one last push to the top of the hill.
It is for this reason I just favour Higgins, he has the most recent experience of these back to back four session matches and although he did fade on the final day against Selby last yr,I still think he will have enough in reserve for another world crown this time score prediction 18-13