2021 British Open DRAW | Round One

Spin To Win For Higgins

Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins is turning to spin classes in a bid to boost his fitness ahead of the new season.

Higgins, a winner of 31 ranking titles, produced one of the finest tournament performances of his career to blitz to victory at the Cazoo Players Championship in February.

However, the Glaswegian failed to carry that form over to the Betfred World Championship in April, suffering a second round exit at the hands of Mark Williams, after a below par win against Tian Pengfei in round one.

Higgins believes that the downturn in form could have been due to a lack of fitness and has elected to get on the exercise bike in order to lose weight ahead of the 2021/22 World Snooker Tour campaign.

“I was disappointed. I think first and foremost, it was actually the worst that I’d ever felt on a snooker table. I did say after my first round match against Tian, which I think I was lucky to win, that there were some shots where I was struggling to breathe,” said 46-year-old Higgins.

“I faded away in that second round match against Mark after a good start. I don’t know if it was because of my eyesight at my age, or the fact I’ve been carrying a bit too much timber. That has never been an issue before, but I felt uncomfortable in Sheffield this year. I need to lose weight before the new season.

“Since the end of the World Championship I’ve got into these spin classes and I’ve really been enjoying it. I’ve been going three or four times a week. It’s on an industrial estate with music blaring, you come in and are going for it for 45 minutes. At the end you are drenched in sweat and absolutely knackered. I’ve never been one for the gym, but I’ve always enjoyed the exercise bike. I’ve lost about a stone so far, but there is obviously more to go. I don’t know when my first tournament next season will be, I’ll see if I need to get my waistcoat tailored a bit. That is the target and I want it to make a difference. It won’t mean I’ll play better, but hopefully I will feel better. It was a wee bit worrying at the Crucible this year.

“The way I performed at the Players Championship still gives me great confidence going into next season. To know that I can still win tournaments and play at that level. I felt I was practising well with Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill in our unit. However, with a week or so to go before the Crucible I just felt I’d left my best form behind. You can never plan to peak for a specific event. You just have to hope if comes at the right time. I could feel in my own head, that whether it was mentally or physically, I ran out of steam.”

Higgins believes Selby has entered the debate surrounding snooker’s greatest player

Following Higgins’ Crucible exit it was Mark Selby who stormed to the title, beating Shaun Murphy in the final to draw level with Higgins on four World Championship wins. Higgins and Selby are well acquainted with facing each other on the sport’s grandest stage, having met in two world finals. Higgins was victorious in 2007 and Selby was the better of the pair in the 2017 title match. Reflecting on Selby’s exploits this year, Higgins feels his rival should now enter the debate of who is snooker’s greatest ever player.

Higgins said: “It was unbelievable seeing Mark win it for a fourth time. To win four titles out of the last eight years is incredible. That is an amazing achievement when you think that the standard has never been higher. Is he the best player ever to pick up a cue? You have to ask that question now. With the standard as tough as it is, for him to win four is fantastic. He is so hard to play over that amount of frames.

“He was unplayable at times this year. I know Stuart Bingham had his chances, but that was it really. Mark got a grip on the final and Shaun Murphy was playing catch up near the end. Although Shaun was playing some brilliant stuff, you just always felt Mark would have enough to get over the line. You can only tip your hat to somebody as good as that. He is in a good position to add more in the coming years. He is so tough mentally and so tough on the table. He will win more world titles I have no doubt. It will be hard for him to beat Stephen Hendry’s seven world titles, but personally I think if he wins five or six, that is better. Mark would have done it in a more competitive era.”

Before Higgins returns to the baize in his quest to match Selby’s exploits at next year’s World Championship, he has the more immediate distraction of looking after a new family dog after the recent purchase of a Cavapoo puppy. Following an initial resistance, he and wife Denise were convinced by daughter Claudia to make the addition to the family. Higgins is already looking forward to hitting the dog walking circuit.

“My daughter eventually wore us down! She’s been getting on to my wife saying she would love a dog. We came to a decision and managed to get one and she is a great wee thing. She’s like a wee apricot with her colour, so my daughter has named her Honey. She’s not had all her jabs yet, but after that I’m looking forward to getting out and taking her on walks. It’s like having a new baby, it’s very exciting.”