It’s a quarter of a century since Nigel Bond and John Higgins battled out one of the most extraordinary deciding frames ever witnessed in a ranking event final, where 00-147 finally fired his way to silverware…
A nerve-shredding 1996 British Open final saw Bond clinch his first and only ranking title to date, seven years after turning professional, by edging Higgins 9-8 in an epic encounter. The Derbyshire cueman, who was runner-up to Stephen Hendry at the World Championship a year earlier, looked to have lost the decider to Higgins when the Scot left him requiring a snooker in the final frame.
However, despite trailing 69-0 with just 67 left on the table, Bond got the snooker he required and took the tie down to a fiercely contested exchange on the colours. As they reached the final two balls, Higgins spurned a chance to win it on the pink, before Bond deposited it and cut an extremely thin black to secure his maiden title. Looking back on that moment, Bond admits that he was a part of one of the greatest finales in snooker history.
“It must to have been one of the best finishes there has been to a final and for me it has been the highlight of my career. Reaching the final of the World Championship is obviously a standout, but the British Open is top because I was the champion,” said the now 55-year-old Bond.
“Obviously it looked like I’d lost it at the end when I needed snookers. In most situations against John Higgins, when snookers are required, you are done. He has spent his whole career doing that sort of thing to other people. John is renowned for unbelievable clearances and pinching frames. It probably wasn’t the way I’d have liked to have won it, but it certainly made for some drama.
“I’d got the snooker and had come from being down and out anyway, I just thought I had to go for it on that final black. Luckily enough for me it went in. We were battling it out on the colours for quite some time and it was all very nerve wracking. I felt I couldn’t afford to leave him anything. It was right down to the wire and in front of a full house. It doesn’t get any more dramatic or exciting than that. The tension and adrenaline was incredible.”
Bond also secured deciding frame wins over Dave Harold and Stephen Hendry on his way to the title match. His victory against Hendry was all the more significant having succumbed to defeat against the Scot in the Crucible final a year earlier.
Looking back, Bond believes the fact that he managed to defeat Hendry and the experiences he gained in the World Championship final, helped him to deal with the pressure in those crucial moments against Higgins.
“The world final was very nerve wracking. That is the most I’ve ever felt nerves before going out to play. I think all the experiences, semi-finals and finals, they all stood me in good stead. I learned from them going into the British Open final. When it came down to the colours I was just playing on adrenaline. I don’t think it is possible to comprehend how unusual the situation is while you are playing. You are just trying to stay in the moment. When you are completely focussed and are in that zone.
“I think it probably was written in the stars. The more the tournament went on, the more I became confident. Any victory against Hendry was amazing back then. He was so dominant and certainly was a nuisance to me throughout the 90s. I could possibly have won a lot more if he wasn’t there, but that’s hindsight. He was going through seasons where he hardly got beat. He was streets ahead of everyone else and totally dominant. You just don’t get that now because there are so many at the top of their game.”
Bond has now been on the tour every year since he turned professional all the way back in 1989. In recent years, he has combined his playing career with being a fully qualified coach and he is involved in the development and delivery of WPBSA coaching qualifications. He has previously worked with the likes of top women’s player Nutcharut Wongharutai from Thailand and currently bases his coaching from Lennon’s Snooker and Pool in Chesterfield.
Bond’s coaching career is well established for when he finally hangs his own cue up, but there may be some way to go before that becomes a reality. World number 64 Bond knew he had to defeat Lee Walker at Crucible qualifying to remain on the circuit and he battled back from 4-3 down to win 6-4. It was do or die for Bond, who says the day he falls off the tour will be the day he retires from professional snooker.
“This is my 33rd year on the tour and I’ve never had any wildcards or invitations. To do 33 years unbroken, I’m quite proud of myself for that. I wouldn’t have gone to Q School if I’d lost to Lee. If I drop off the tour then that is it. At the end of the day I’ll be 56 in November and I’ve had my time. I’m never going to get back in the top 16, or the top 32 for that matter. I’ve had my day and I can’t complain. I’ve had a good career and a good life out of it.
“At 55, I’ve managed to get myself back in the world’s top 64, which I am very proud of. I had a good run in the UK Championship a couple of years ago to reach the quarter-finals and that is obviously a big event. You don’t forget how to play the shots, but it is a case of going out and doing it. It was very gratifying to show people that I could still play. I’m sure there were some out there that didn’t think I could. All it takes is a bit of luck to go your way during a week and things can fall together. At 5-5 in the quarter-finals with Mark Allen I really had started to believe I could go all the way. Sadly I didn’t really get a chance in the decider and lost 6-5.
“It is a challenge to try to stay on the tour and one I will enjoy. Each year the only goal is to stay on. I don’t set myself any targets or anything like that. As long as I can keep my card, I will carry on competing, because I absolutely love it. Once I fall off that will be me.”
Bond will be in action at this year’s British Open when he faces Duane Jones in the opening round at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
Spectators will be welcomed through the doors for the first time this season and with tickets available for as little as £5, the British Open represents a tremendous opportunity to see the best players on the planet.
Fans are encouraged to act quickly while availability remains. Click here to book now.