In the end it all seemed so elementary for John Higgins to claim his 26th ranking title, after defeating Ben Woollaston 9-3 at the Welsh Open, but it has been an arduous three year wait for the former world number one since his last similar success at the Shanghai Masters back in 2012. Like Ronnie O'Sullivan, Higgins at 39 years of age is having to contend with the plethora of high quality younger players on the circuit these days, but he showed in Cardiff that he can still be a contender for the major titles. His victory was a record fourth at the Welsh Open event, yet another accolade for the Scotsman, and netted him a £60,000 first prize as a result.
Four world titles suggest a wealth of experience and big match temperament, and his form during the tournament at the Motorpoint Arena has been back to near his very best. Against Woollaston, his break building was perhaps slightly down on that in earlier rounds but solid contributions of 84 and 105 established a 4-3 lead for him. Perhaps the turning point in the final was the eighth frame, just before the interval, which Higgins sneaked after his opponent had made a break of 59 and looked about to draw level in the match. The snooker gods seemed to be on the veteran's side as he got the rub of the 'green' on that very (baulk) colour with a fluke.
Coming back out 5-3 ahead, Higgins seemed intent on finishing the match off quickly, as he took the next four frames without much trouble.
Higgins was delighted with his latest success when speaking to BBC Sport afterwards: "It feels amazing to win again and Ben's had a great tournament, he's beaten some great players."
It has indeed been a breakthrough event for the 27-year-old from Leicester, who has beaten more highly fancied players including Ali Carter and Mark Williams in Cardiff, on his way to a first ranking final. Besides that boost to his confidence, he can also look forward to a ranking within the world's top 32 when the lists are next produced. On reflection, he reckoned that it had been the "best week of my life snooker-wise," he was justifiably a little disappointed to have not given Higgins more of a contest in the final itself.
Higgins places fourth in the all-time list of ranking title winners, just behind O'Sullivan and two behind Steve Davis, with the maestro Stephen Hendry well out in front on 36 titles. It does reflect, however, his ability as a snooker player throughout his career and perhaps where he stands among the greats of the sport. #Celebrities