Higgins Revival Gathers Pace
John Higgins continues to see the green shoots of renaissance in his game as he scored a second consecutive 4-0 victory at the BetVictor Welsh Open, beating Martin Gould to reach the last 32.
Four-time Crucible king Higgins has had a poor season by his standards; he is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event so far this term and came into this week in 60th place on the one-year ranking list. But the Scot looked sharp in winning his BetVictor Championship League group last week, and has carried that momentum to Llandudno, beating Alexander Ursenbacher and now Gould without conceding a frame.
“It was good scoring today, that’s what I’ll need to produce for the rest of the tournament if I want to go deep,” sad 47-year-old Higgins, who made breaks of 89, 68, 97 and 66 today. “My focus is just trying to hit the ball more solid and play as well as I can. There are big events coming up – I’ve got the Championship League Winners’ Group, the Six Red event and the WST Classic so I have got time to get my game ready for Sheffield.
“This is a great place to come, I have brought my wife down so we could spend Valentine’s Day together and do a bit of sight-seeing. I am relaxed and enjoying it.”
Higgins, who faces Sanderson Lam next, recently admitted that he has considered working with a sports psychologist for the first time in his career. He added today: “When you are struggling mentally with the game, you look for little nuggets or bits of advice from players who have been there and done it. It’s a tough sport. I have always been one of the guys on the tour who has always kept myself to myself, and sometimes it can get on top of you.”
Judd Trump was far from his best in a 4-2 win over Louis Heathcote, but did enough to set up a third round meeting with amateur Daniel Wells. From 2-1 down, Trump made a vital 34 clearance in the fourth frame to pinch it on the black. In the next, Heathcote was on a break of 62 when his attempted red with the rest finished short of a corner pocket, and again Trump punished him with a 65 clearance. The Masters champion then got the better of a safety battle on the final green in frame six and wrapped up the contest.
“Louis will be super disappointed because he created some good chances for himself but missed the crucial balls,” said Trump, who was runner-up to Joe Perry in this event last year. “I am getting out of jail a bit but also making the tough clearances that maybe I have been missing. Similar to the Masters, it looked like I was going out but made those important clearances under pressure. At the start of the season I might have lost that 4-3.”
Ali Carter remains on target to win the £150,000 BetVictor Series bonus at the end of this week, and his 4-1 win over amateur Ian Martin kept him £9,000 ahead of second-placed Mark Allen. For updates on that race click here.
“It’s in the back of my mind of course,” said BetVictor German Masters champion Carter, whose top break today was 124. “It’s in my hands now but it’s also in Mark (Allen’s) hands. All I can do is try to win the tournament. Hopefully the money will drop into my account. But if it doesn’t then I’m still in a good place – I’m in the Players Championship, more than likely the Tour Championship and a seed for the Crucible.”
Allen, who needs to at least reach the semi-finals for a chance of over-taking Carter, eased into round three with a 4-1 win over Mitchell Mann. He now faces Andy Hicks, who beat Wu Yize 4-3 by clearing from the last red to snatch the deciding frame on the final black.
Jack Lisowski top scored with 93 in a 4-0 win over Ryan Thomerson, while Barry Hawkins top scored with 70 as he beat Ben Woollaston 4-0, strengthening his position in the race to the Players Championship. Hossein Vafaei fired runs of 102 and 133 in a 4-1 victory over Ken Doherty.