x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Higgins one title away from joining elite trio

The Welsh Open winner is now just one short of Ronnie O'Sullivan's mark of 22 ranking titles, though still well behind Stephen Hendry (36) and Steve Davis (28).

NEWPORT // John Higgins won his first ranking event of the season, and the 21st of his career, with an emphatic 9-4 defeat of Ali Carter in the final of the Welsh Open. A sparkling display saw Higgins, 34, record two centuries and eight more breaks over 50 as he coasted to the trophy and £35,000 (Dh203,000) first prize. It is the second time he has won this title, and the first since 2000 when he beat Stephen Lee in the final in Cardiff. Higgins has been by far the most consistent player in the world over the past year, reaching at least the semi-finals of the last six consecutive ranking events.

But it had been a source of frustration that only one of those had been converted into a title: the World Championship in May. After defeats since then in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters and the Grand Prix and in the final of the UK Championship, this time he goes home with the trophy. He is now just one short of Ronnie O'Sullivan's mark of 22 ranking titles, though still well behind Stephen Hendry (36) and Steve Davis (28).

Higgins knocked O'Sullivan out of the last three ranking events, and seems certain to take over from the Rocket as world No 1 at the end of the season. The Scot only needs to match O'Sullivan's performance at next month's China Open in Beijing to guarantee the top spot before the campaign's Crucible conclusion. "I just want to win as many events I can, I've always felt that ranking tournaments are the ones to go for," he said.

"I'm feeling really confident at the moment and just taking it as it comes. I've had my time in the doldrums so when you are on a high you want to keep it going." @Email:sports@thenational.ae