Sunday 17 December 2017

Snooker: Higgins' delight at triumphant return

John Curtis

John Higgins is hoping the "hardest six months" of his life are behind him after winning his third UK Championship title. Higgins trailed 9-5 to Mark Williams but recovered to win 10-9 in the final in Telford.

It was his first major tournament triumph since serving a six-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute after admitting breaching rules around betting. Higgins admits his family helped him through those difficult times and he has won 18 out of 19 matches since returning to competitive action last month.

"It means everything just to be back playing and competing, and now winning the UK Championship means a great deal," he said.

"It has been the hardest six months I'll probably have to go through in my life, but hopefully I've put it behind me now. It is a learning curve and it has made me more determined."

Higgins added: "These things come to test you in life and this is one thing I've had to battle through. My wife Denise has been massive through all of this. Your wife, mum, dad, kids are the people that are behind you when all is said and done."

Higgins showed great resilience in refusing to be beaten by Williams and becomes the fourth player to win three or more UK titles after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

"If someone had tried to write a book with that finale, they would have been laughed at," said Higgins. "I was 9-5 behind, was being totally outplayed and running out of ideas. Mark was dictating everything. But I just never gave up, which has been the case all week.

"I thought 9-5 was too big a mountain, but the frames start to go by and a couple of things never went his way. The balls never forgive you. It is unbelievable.

"I don't see how you can top this. I suppose winning the world title 18-17 on the black. Maybe that would top it. But it is stuff that dreams are made of."

Higgins had also stated his desire to lift the crown for his dad, John Snr, who is losing his five-year battle against cancer. "Dad has been back up home watching some of the snooker. He's been a big part for me, coming here to tournaments, but he's been here with me this week as well (in spirit)."

Higgins' success also lifted him back to No 1 in the world rankings ahead of Neil Robertson. Williams has climbed back to No 3 but admits he will not win tournaments unless his form improves.

"John did well to come back to be fair to him," said the runner-up. "I've got no complaints. I've been pretty dreadful overall this week.

"The final was probably the best match I've played during the tournament. I'm not going to win tournaments the way I am playing, but I nearly nicked it. It was a fluke that I was in the final but I had a chance to nick it and probably threw it away."

Irish Independent

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