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Higgins Wary Of Liang Challenge

John Higgins

Higgins is a two-time Masters winner

John Higgins realises he needs to sharpen up his game before he heads to snooker’s Dafabet Masters next week for a tough opening match against in-form Liang Wenbo.

Four-time World Champion Higgins admits he barely picked up his cue over the Christmas break, and he finished second-bottom of his group at the Championship League this week after losing four of his six matches.

The Wizard of Wishaw is now looking ahead to the prestigious Masters, which starts on Sunday at Alexandra Palace in London. On Wednesday January 13 at 1pm he’ll be up against China’s Liang, who enjoyed a brilliant run to the final of the UK Championship last month to earn a Masters debut.

“I only practised for half an hour over Christmas,” said Higgins, who won the Masters in 1999 and 2006. “It’s a chance to spend time with the family so I barely played. That’s why I played in the Championship League this week, but as it turns out I spent most of the time watching the other players pot balls. So I’ll be back at home now with four or five days practice to get ready for the Masters.

“Liang did so well to get to the UK Championship final and get a place in the Masters for the first time so he’ll be full of confidence. They are all great players in this event so it’s always tough. Liang has become a much more rounded player this season, he proved that in the UK and he put up a good battle against Neil Robertson in the final. He’s a fighter but also a good guy who plays with a smile on his face.”

Liang Wenbo

Liang enjoyed the best week of his career in York

Higgins, age 40, enjoyed an excellent year in 2015, winning three ranking events to bring his career tally to 28. “It was one of my best years for a long time and I played my best snooker since winning my last world title in 2011,” he said. “I feel very happy with my game. I’ve never been one for setting targets and I’m not going to start doing that now, but this year I just want to keep putting the work in, keep my game at a decent level and see where that takes me.”

The Masters will see the return to action of Ronnie O’Sullivan, playing his first televised event of the season. “It might not be good for the other players to have him back as he’ll be one of the favourites, but it’s great for the sponsors and the fans because he helps add to the razzmatazz of the event,” said Higgins.

Scotland’s Higgins received an MBE in 2008 and believes the OBE awarded to O’Sullivan in the recent New Year honours was not before time. “It was certainly overdue,” said Higgins. “He has done more than most in snooker and if these awards are going to be given to people in sport then Ronnie definitely deserves it.”

The Dafabet Masters runs from January 10 to 17 with the world’s top 16 players battling for the famous trophy and £200,000 top prize.

Tickets are still available and fans are strongly urged to BOOK FAST as many sessions are close to selling out. For ticket details call 0871 620 7052 (calls cost 10p per minute from a BT landline plus network charges) or CLICK HERE