John Higgins beat Judd Trump 18-15 in a pulsating final to win the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship for the fourth time.
In one of the best world finals in recent memory and certainly the best since Shaun Murphy beat Matthew Stevens in 2005, Higgins became the only player other than Stephen Hendry (seven) and Steve Davis (six) to lift the famous trophy more than three times at the Crucible.
Higgins trailed 10-7 overnight but used all of his experience and matchplay class to win 11 of the 16 frames today. Trump had chances in most of the frames but missed key balls at vital moments as his hopes of becoming the second youngest champion – after Hendry in 1990 – faded away in the closing stages.
Wishaw’s 35-year-old Higgins collected a cheque for £250,000 in winning his third world title in the past five attempts. It’s hard to believe that in 2007 he questioned whether he would go down as one of snooker’s all-time greats, as he had just one Crucible crown to his name. Now, with his name engraved four times on the trophy, he is an undisputed legend of the sport.
The past 12 months have been the most turbulent time of the Scot’s life, with the six month ban for breaching betting regulations followed by the illness and death of his father John Snr. His remarkable capacity to clear his mind on the table and focus on the match at hand was once again evident tonight; only in the post-match interviews did he break down in tears.
Having played the best snooker of his life on a consistent basis over the past four years, and with plenty of time at the top ahead of him, he feels he can challenge the record of seven world titles set by fellow-Scot Hendry.
This is Higgins’ 24th ranking title in all, leaving him just four behind Davis (28) though still a long way short of Hendry (36). Despite missing the first five months of the campaign, he has won three ranking events this season plus an EPTC tournament, and has now won 18 of his last 19 matches on the pro tour.
Snooker’s equivalent of the Terminator, he’s the player who just can’t be killed off. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and Trump all had him on the ropes at certain points, but he just refuses to crumble. No other player in history has been as good at winning frames from at least 50 points behind.
Despite Higgins’ triumph, this classic tournament will be best remembered for the electric performances of Trump. The 21-year-old left-hander from Bristol with bundles of cue power lit up the event with his sensational and stylish attacking play, delighting fans with a multitude of full-blooded long pots and deep screw shots.
The atmosphere at the start of the evening session was generally agreed to be the best ever witnessed at a snooker match – a clear sign that Trump has captured the imagination of the snooker public. Young, photogenic, fashionable, laid-back and straight-talking, he’s a hero for the Twitter generation.
Trump, whose style of play has attracted comparisons to a young Jimmy White and the Shaun Murphy of 2005, will be desperately disappointed not to finish tonight with the fairytale ending. But surely he will be back on the biggest stage competing for the crown and thriving in his new role as the sport’s boy wonder.
From virtually nowhere he won the Bank of Beijing China Open last month, and with tonight’s runner-up cheque his earnings for the past four weeks total £185,000. He’ll go into next season ranked ninth in the world and with ambitions of climbing higher.
Trump had the first chance in the opening frame tonight and made 38 before unluckily going in-off. Higgins stepped in with a typically ruthless 62 clearance to extend his lead to 14-12.
Higgins had won five in a row at that point, but Trump stopped the rot in the next with runs of 29 and 41. In frame 28, Higgins was in the balls but missed a black off its spot at 38-25, and Trump made an excellent 35 clearance to level the match at 14-14.
Trump had the first chance of the 29th frame and led 51-0 when he was unlucky to run out of position when he split the pack. Higgins made 44 then missed the last red down the side cushion. But he got a reprieve as Trump missed the black off the last red, and Higgins made a fine clearance, highlighted by a tough brown.
The next was a scrappy one which came down to the colours. Higgins potted a long yellow and added the green but had to play safe on the brown. Trump, trailing by 15 points, went for a thin cut on the brown but left it over the jaws and he was 16-14 down.
Higgins looked ready to pull away, and made 46 in the next before missing a red to a baulk corner. Trump took his opportunity with a break of 70 to halve the deficit.
Such was the tension at this stage that Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter: “I’ve finished my fingernails and have now nibbled up to my knuckles.”
Trump had two scoring chances in frame 32 but could only build a 39-0 lead. Higgins made an excellent 50 before missing the last brown with the rest, but he got another chance and slotted the brown home to go two up with three to play at 17-15.
In the 33rd, Trump looked certain to pull one back until he missed an easy pink at 60-0. Higgins clawed his way back into the frame, though when Trump potted the last red he trailed by 32 points on the colours.
Cleverly, Higgins potted yellow, green, brown and blue so he needed just one snooker to win, then trapped his opponent behind the black. Trump missed the pink, and after a brief safety tussle, Higgins fired an inspired double into a middle pocket and added the black to end one of the all-time great tournaments.