John Higgins has finally got a win at the Tour Championship – and would love to emulate the almost fated run to the title of close friend Stephen Maguire two years ago.
The 46-year-old Scot edged past China’s reigning UK and German Masters champion Zhao Xintong 10-9 late on Monday night in Llandudno after a nerve-shredding decider.
Four-time world champion Higgins admitted he had enjoyed a season’s worth of luck in just a few days having pocketed a series bonus of £150,000 in Gibraltar, clung on to his place in the Tour Championship and then come back from the dead and 8-4 down against the 24-year-old Zhao.
World No6 Higgins had never before tasted victory at the prestigious tournament for only the eight best players of the season.
And having struck yet another blow for the 40-somethings during a campaign that has seen title wins for himself, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Joe Perry and Rob Milkins, Higgins reflected on Maguire’s charmed surge to this title two years ago.
In 2020 Maguire only got in as ninth on the list because Ding Junhui did not make the trip to the UK due to Covid – and then walked away with £260,000 for the title, a series bonus and the high-break prize.
Higgins said: “I do remember what happened to Stephen Maguire in similar circumstances a couple of years ago in this event. It was like fate for him that year, I’d love to take a bit of that.
“He only scraped in because Ding Junhui did not come over because of Covid, and ended up winning about £260,000 with the title and a series bonus.
“I can’t think about that yet, but this is a huge tournament yup there along with the Masters and the UK. It is the cream of the crop here, with always four fantastic quarter-finals.
“I got off to a good start to the season and I started to feel as if the car was losing petrol and I was running out of gas and ready to come to a standstill.
“It was very tough preparing for this tournament because I didn’t know for sure I was in it until Saturday night. And that meant I felt all at sea for most of the match against Zhao.
“But coming through a tight one like that might just give me a boost and a kick up the backside because I have been disappointed with some of the deciders I have lost.
“It feels like I must have a load of horseshoes or heather with me at the moment. I could easily not be here – and I should be out after the first match.
“I have always thought that over the course of a whole season the luck does even out, and it feels like I am getting a lot of it at the moment.
“I had never won a match here, and lost to Judd Trump, and lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan. So this one is very sweet.
“With me winning and Ronnie O’Sullivan playing Mark Williams there will be two of the Class of 92 in the semi-finals.
“And as well as us going strong you have had the likes of Joe Perry and Rob Milkins winning titles in their 40s as well. I was especially delighted for Rob – and not just because he saved my place in this!
“So there is life in the old dogs yet. I will have to change my tip though for the semi-final, though. I tried to have a go at it with a Stanley knife at 5-3 down and just butchered it.
“I can’t believe I won the match against Zhao here, I was embarrassed with myself at 8-4 behind and sitting there thinking he was playing like a world class player, and I was playing like a club player.
“So in the circumstances it has to be one of my best ever wins, because I didn’t really fancy coming back at all. He started to miss a couple and I dragged him down to my level.
“I was all over the place having travelled down late on Sunday night, my technique was gone, everything was going wrong. I’ll always fight, but he was hitting it like a dream.
“It has been a real rollercoaster the past few days. Normally you are in control of your own destiny in this game to win money and titles and get into events.
“But now we have all these different races and series, it makes for nervous days and you also feel for the guys who just miss out because they are all under pressure.
“It feels for me that everything is a bonus this week because I should be out. I’ll go home to Scotland for a few days an practice and then be back before the semi-final. I’ll need to play a lot better.”