John Higgins marked his return to snooker’s competitive arena in the best possible fashion by winning Euro Players Tour Championship event five in Germany.
He beat Shaun Murphy 4-2 in the final in Hamm, winning seven matches in all during the tournament. Higgins had not played in a professional event since April, but left no doubt that his game and winning instinct are very much intact.
The Wizard of Wishaw collected a 10,000 Euro top prize after becoming the 11th different winner in 11 PTC events so far this season. In missing the first part of the season he slipped from No 1 in the world to No 4, but is now back up to third having earned 2,000 ranking points.
Higgins opened a high quality final with a superb break of 132, and went 2-0 ahead with a run of 66. Murphy, who was aiming to become the first player to win two events in the PTC series, hit back to 2-2 with 64 and 50.
Three-times World Champion Higgins regained the lead with a 95, and knocked in a 53 in the next to lead by 66 with five reds left. Murphy enjoyed an outrageous fluke out of a snooker and had a chance to clear up, but missed a tricky black off the last red and offered the handshake.
“It was a good final, I only really missed one ball, when I should have gone 3-1 up,” said 35-year-old Higgins, who was supported throughout the event by wife Denise. “I just came here hoping to get a few matches under my belt, so I’m delighted to win it.
“I had to be realistic coming here as the other players had all been competing regularly for four or five months. I knew I was good enough to win it but I didn’t expect that much.
“The first match was the hardest and that was the worst I played, Joe Jogia had chances to beat me. After that I settled down and felt a lot better.
“The draw was bound to be hard as the standard is so high now. Martin Gould was a very tough match as he’s the most improved player on the circuit, and then to beat two of the best in the world in Graeme Dott and Shaun in my last two matches was amazing really.
“Winning here gives me some confidence but there’s a long way to go, I would have felt that whatever happened here. It has no real bearing on the rest of the season.”
Higgins was banned from tournaments for six months following a Sport Resolutions UK hearing but was welcomed back by his peers. He added: “I’m delighted, not just for me but for my family and friends. The reception from the snooker community was exceptionally warm and encouraging. I didn’t expect anything else – these are players I have known for years. They know John Higgins and I know them.
“I promised in September that I intended to pick up many more trophies, tonight is just the start.”
The 12th and final short event in the PTC series is next week in Prague, with the top 24 in the final Order of Merit to qualify for the Grand Finals in March. However, players must have contested at least three PTC and three EPTC events, so Higgins will not be eligible for the final event.