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Home Sweet Home For Higgins

John Higgins delighted his home fans by winning his first ever ranking event in Scotland, beating Ryan Day 9-7 in the final of the Royal London Watches Grand Prix.

The two-times World Champion, who lives just 14 miles away from Glasgow in Wishaw, won his first ranking title since his second Crucible triumph 17 months ago. The 33-year-old lifted the trophy and pocketed a cheque for £75,000 as friends, family and wife Denise looked on from the SECC arena.

It’s the 19th ranking title of Higgins career and his fourth Grand Prix crown, equalling the record set by Stephen Hendry.

Day played the best snooker of the tournament in reaching the final, particularly in his semi-final against Ali Carter last night, but seemed affected by nerves in the early stages today, making too many unforced errors.

From 7-2 down, the Welshman relaxed and got his cue arm flowing as he fought back to 7-6 then 8-7.

But it was not to be for the 28-year-old from Pontycymmer as he failed to win his first ranking title. He has now lost three finals and must be anxious to break his duck before long, though a £35,000 runner-up prize and a leap to third place in the latest world rankings will give him some comfort.

Higgins had a miserable 2007/08 campaign by his standards, failing to reach a ranking semi-final. He even admitted that his Crucible triumph in May 2007 had “papered over the cracks” of a loss of form stretching back nearly three years.

He stood precariously in 14th place in the provisional rankings going into this season and admitted that his first priority was to ensure his top 16 status.

But with a renewed sense of focus, he has rediscovered many of his renowned matchplay qualities this term, as well as the knack of winning when not at his best, as he proved in winning this tournament despite rarely finding top gear.

Higgins led 5-2 after the opening session today, then enjoyed a stroke of good luck in the first frame tonight. A long pot went awry but he left the cue ball so close to the blue that Day could not get to any of the scattered reds. Higgins later compiled a break of 52 to stretch his lead.

Day started the next with a run of 52 before missing a red with the rest. He was presented with another chance when Higgins missed the black on 22, but Day’s failed attempt at a red to the centre let his opponent in to clear for 7-2.

In frame ten, Day started his fight back as he capitalised on a missed red from Higgins with a run of 69.

On a run of 47 in the 11th, Day knocked in a plant on a red only to accidentally nudge the pink into a middle pocket. Higgins made 49 before missing the last red with the rest and it came down to a safety tussle on the yellow. A Higgins safety error let Day in for a cool clearance to make it 7-4.

Day built his momentum in the next with a break of 89. After the interval, Higgins had a clear chance to win frame 13 but missed the third-last red, bridging awkwardly over the pink. Day cleared with 39, including fine pots on the yellow and brown with the rest.

Having lost four on the spin, Higgins finally stopped the rot in the 14th with a top run of 50 to go 8-6 ahead. Day responded positively with an 83 to stay in touch.

Higgins opened the next with a long red which set up a break of 53, ending when he failed to land on the red after splitting the pack off the black. Day clawed his way back to 54-36 before missing a tricky penultimate red to a baulk corner. Higgins took the last two reds and cleared to the brown to ensure victory.