Can’t believe it – the tournament reaches its conclusion and it is finals day. I again get a lie in of sorts and make way to the International Centre little knowing the drama that was to unfold on Stunning Sunday.
Amid the insignifcance of the X Factor a certain reporter in here reduces us all to laughter with his perfect impression of the tannoy announcer on the show. Well tonight who needed the X Factor as John Higgins completed a fairytale return to domestic snooker by snatching the UK Championship trophy from the grasp of Mark Williams.
And with it he snagged the Christmas Number 1. Fairytale of New York – well this was Fairytale of Telford. And pure magic.
Oh and Europe won the Mosconi Cup – Ralf Souquet gaining the vital point against the United States at Bethnall Green.
And so the fun is over and it is time to look to Christmas. As the song line goes “look to the future now it has only just begun”
The trophy has gone in one direction – to Wishaw. Well done to everyone on an amazing championship!
JOHN Higgins completed a stunning comeback from the brink of defeat to seal a fairytale 10-9 victory at the UK championship at Telford.
Williams was in complete control throughout, and was never headed until it hurt the most – at the conclusion of a spellbinding match – and soon asserted his authority in the opening frame which he captured with a break of 83. Higgins, though maybe struggling to gage the pace of the table, and perhaps suffering from nerves rather more than the Welshman made an early 40 in frame 2 but broke down when missing a red. The Scotsman though had an impressive 59-1 lead and won a brief safety duel before settling the frame with a run of 19.
Williams saw a run of 39 come to an end when he missed an easy red to allow Higgins a visit to the table. Higgins was not to make the most of his opportunity and missed an easy brown, and handed the initiative back to Mark, who needed no second invitation. Minutes later the lead was 3-1 to Williams when a break of 45 came to an end for Higgins when he missed a pink to the centre. Williams, growing in confidence stroked in a 65 to clinch the frame on the pink.
Higgins, who was suffering under the Williams pressure was soon staring down the barrell at a 4-1 deficit, but was thrown a lifeline when Williams, on a break of 55 missed a red along the side cushion. Higgins dispatched the red and cleared up with 66 to trail 2-3. Was that to be a key pyschological blow?
The answer was no as Williams took the next two frames to lead 5-2, Higgins badly need the final one of the session to stay in touch and give himself a chance of launching a counter attack in the evening. But he was destined to go 6-2 down as Williams closed the session with a break of 85.
Higgins badly needed a fast start if he was going to launch any sort of comeback – unfortunately he was to be disappointed as Williams struck with a break of 41 that began with a red to the centre from underneath the top cushion. As the audience saw Williams move confidently to a 7-2 lead Santa Claus, well three of them to be precise were in attendance too, and they looked set to give Mark an early Christmas present in the form of a trophy, cheque and the world number 3 ranking.
But with Higgins leading the series of encounters with Williams the question was would the ghost of christmas past return to haunt Williams. The answer looked to be no as Higgins went in off into the centre pocket, leaving Mark with the cue ball in hand from thr “D”. Powering in a long red Williams made 43 before scampering to safety. The run of the balls was changing and when Williams missed a tricky red to the centre allowing Higgins to counter with a 94 to reduce Williams’s lead to 7-4 the momentum was shifting.
But with the interval approaching Mark was now in the position of being either four frames clear or just the two. Effectively the frame was decided with Higgins miss on a long red that allowed Mark to step in with a decisive 70. It left Higgins needing a snooker, and while he closed to 42-70 he was unable to procure the four penalty points needed to snatch the frame. As Williams potted the all important brown to the corner there was to be no reprieve for the Scotsman in this frame.
Higgins though does not yield lightly and pouncing upon a missed red from Williams made a quickfire 104 to close to within three of Williams. Williams now in exactly the same position in this game that Murphy had occupied aginst him in the semi finals. But would lightening strike twice?
Not if he was going to wobble long reds in jaws it wasn’t. The reds, kindly split were there for the taking for Williams and an easy starter of a red soon saw Mark striding confidently round the table to make 29 – before going for a red with the rest. Problem was that he misjudged the potting angle and scattered them all over the table. Higgins nailed a cut red to the corner and played safe, leaving the cue ball tight under the baulk cushion. It was enough to force a safety error from Williams who left John with a mid range straight red. As Higgins looked set for a clearance he missed a straight pink off it’s spot. It was to cost him dearly as Williams fired in a frame winning break of 63 to leave himself needing one frame for victory.
Higgins dominated frame 15 without any sizeable breaks. But had he left himself too much to do to catch Williams? He had the best start possible in frame 16 with a straight red sunk to the corner. But despite the reds being split Higgins made a crucial error in taking on a doubled red to the centre. He missed and retreated to his seat with only 30 points to show for his efforts. Minutes later though he was heaving a huge sigh of relief as Williams missed with an ambitious red to the corner and left John with a straight red to the top corner. As he held himself together Higgins ran in a 76 to stave off defeat at 9-7.
But it was all to be in vain as the pressure of trying to recover from a huge starting deficit finally caught up with John. Attempting a long straight red to the corner he missed and clattered into the reds leaving Mark with the balls at his mercy. As Mark stroked in a close range red and followed with the black. With huge concentration and precision Mark rolled in a 61 – only to miss a cut back red to the corner. Higgins replied with a 40 but saw the last red wobble in the jaws of the pocket before rolling to safety. It was now down to the last red and the colours, and a safety battle ensued. And it was to be settled on the final red when Higgins round the table safety saw him leave the red in a cuttable position to the “yellow” pocket. Williams seized his chance and sunk the red to leave John needing a snooker. And Higgins was to succeed as Williams, attempting a masse escape missed the yellow – and to compound it went in off. With the cue ball in hand in the “D” Higgins dispatched the yellow and cleared 27 to steal the frame 71-69 and pull the match from out of the fire and close to 9-8.
After such a seismic frame those who are not as strong mentally as Williams would surely have folded but Higgins wasn’t to be smiling for too long as after overhitting the black he left himself with a difficult red to the corner. He missed it and left a simple red to the “green” pocket. Williams though failed to take advantage and Higgins back at the table and strung together enough points to leave Mark needing a snooker. Forget X Factor this match was heading in one direction – to a decider.
Higgins was now holding his emotions in check as Williams missed a cut back red to the corner and the Scotsman sunk it and embarked on what maybe one of his most emotional moments of his professional career. He made 66 before suffering an horrendous kick on the black that saw him miss the following red. But Williams was not out of it yet. He clawed his way back into the frame to the green before losing out on a safety duel on the brown. Higgins took aim and doubled it into the top corner pocket and followed with blue and pink to record most stunning, emotional comeback and become the Christmas Number 1.