John Higgins admits he is super-charged for the start of the BetVictor series of tournaments – and checking out a new venue in Austria.
By Hector Nunns
The World Snooker Tour sets down in the picturesque town of Dornbirn in the mountainous Vorarlberg region this week for the BetVictor European Masters. Match schedule
And it looks like snooker in the snow for the 32 players having qualified to take part at the Messe complex, with the nearby ski slopes at Boedele having been covered by a fresh fall in recent days.
It might be more remote than capital city Vienna, but the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have played an exhibition here to huge crowds, and similar are expected for this event.
For Scotland’s Higgins, 44, who like the others present has won two qualifiers to be in the draw, the attractions of the tournament are numerous.
While others arrive via Zurich and a train, he was flying in to Munich, hiring a car, and then meandering down over the Germany-Austria border taking in some wintry scenery.
There is the obvious target of the world number six adding to his 30 ranking titles, and trying to get closer to O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry, currently locked on 36.
But perhaps most of all, four-time world champion Higgins is licking his lips at the prospect of having a real tilt at the BetVictor series bonus of £150,000 for being the leading money-winner.
Any player claiming the £80,000 first prize in either Austria or at the BetVictor German Masters in Berlin next week will have a real shot at the bumper extra pay-out.
Doing well in both could make them a red-hot favourite, with the quickfire Shoot Out and Gibraltar Open to follow.
Higgins said: “The bonus on offer for winning the most money on this BetVictor series is massive, on top of what you would win anyway.
“And it isn’t some incentive that looks impossible, but very real and achievable.
“You would have to think that if a player wins one of the first two, the big European tournaments in Austria and Germany, they would be in a very strong position.
Dornbirn hosts a world ranking event for the first time this week
“I have qualified for both of those, and will be giving it everything. So I would love to do well this week in Dornbirn and then in Berlin. And then if I was in the mix and it was in the balance, I would probably go to Gibraltar which I might not normally.
“The idea of different bonuses for different series is a good one, the players like it – and there is a lot of great stuff going on.
“I think I have been to play in Austria – in Vienna – once in the past for an exhibition. Obviously we are not in the capital this week, but somewhere a bit more remote.
“But I am really looking forward to a new experience. I am flying over to Munich in Germany, hiring a car and then driving down from there.
“I think it is maybe a couple of hours, just over, so I’ll see some sights from the car as it should be a scenic route.
“And with the coverage on Eurosport so good now all over the continent and fans keen to see the top players, I think there will be great crowds turning up in Dornbirn.
“I only heard late that it was so close to some ski slopes. It is probably just as well the missus didn’t know about that earlier!
“She keeps going on about us going on a family skiing holiday, and I say ‘no way’. If she’d known before it might have been a more difficult conversation!”