NEW SEASON: THE MAN TO BEAT
John Higgins epitomised this spirit last season. He was hit with all sorts: some his own fault, some the fault of others and some nobody’s fault but sheer fate.
And he came through it all to win a fourth world title, third UK title and produce some snooker so tough, so admirable that it led Steve Davis to describe him on BBC television as ‘the greatest ever.’
I assumed Steve, who as we know has a deep, pure, genuine love of snooker, had got a little carried away but he repeated the same statement a few days later at the World Snooker awards.
This post isn’t a debate about who the greatest of all time is (although, for me, it’s Stephen Hendry) but I can understand what Davis is saying because Higgins plays the sort of game he himself played so well for so long.
The Scot isn’t a go-for-anything type. He has a snooker knowledge so strong it is almost innate. He knows what the right shot is in pretty much every scenario and has the clarity of thought to play it.
In this, Higgins is in the Davis line but has taken this particular game to a whole new level.
His fighting qualities at the Crucible were remarkable, almost as if he resolved simply not to lose.
Michael Holt and Shaun Murphy were the only players to beat him in a tournament that carried ranking points last season, although missing early tournaments meant Higgins is second behind Mark Williams in the world rankings.
Indisputably, though, he is the best player in the world right now and it’s hard to imagine his general approach changing during the new campaign.
He didn’t have to go down to Gloucester for three days to play in the Pink Ribbon tournament but did so and, having been denied the chance to play snooker for a few months last year, is obviously relishing it again.
This makes him very dangerous because among the acres of stuff written about him, nobody has ever disputed his abilities on the table.
He’s good for a few years yet and who is to say he can’t get close to Hendry’s haul of seven world titles? Interestingly, he is playing to a higher standard in his 30s than Hendry managed so it is not inconceivable.
I don’t agree with Davis that Higgins is the greatest of all time...but there is still time for that change.