x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

John Higgins on the road to redemption

Victory over Mark Williams draws a line under arduous year for the Scot, who was suspended for six months for not having brought the approach to fix frames to the authorities.

John Higgins on his way to the UK Championship title yesterday. 
Nick Potts / Press Association
John Higgins on his way to the UK Championship title yesterday. Nick Potts / Press Association

This year is unlikely to go down as one of the finest in the career of John Higgins, the three-time world snooker champion.

The Scotsman was accused by The News of the World newspaper in the UK in May of match-fixing, and the allegations looked serious enough at one point to end his career.

He was cleared of those charges, but was suspended for six months for not having brought the approach to fix frames to the authorities when it had happened.

The UK Championship was Higgins's first tournament back in action after his ban had expired, and the 35-year-old made it a winning return on Sunday as he came from behind to beat Mark Williams 10-9 in the final.

The success is unlikely to make up fully for the anguish he had suffered during his imposed time away from the sport, but Higgins confessed he was "a man on a mission" at the UK Championship.

He had stated his desire to lift the crown for his dad, John, who is losing his five-year battle against cancer.

"I was a man on a mission. I was really determined to try and stop anything which prevented me from winning it," Higgins said.

"Given everything that surrounds it, this is my finest hour on the table.

"It means everything, just to be back playing and winning. It means a great deal.

"Obviously it means a great deal to my family as well."

Trailing 9-5 in the best-of-19 match, Higgins had looked out of it against his Welsh opponent, but he won five frames in a row to seal a superb fightback.

"I just never gave up," he added. "I thought 9-5 was too big a mountain but each frame was going past and I was still in it.

"It is an unbelievable feeling."

Williams, a two-time world champion, paid tribute to the Scotsman's fighting qualities.

He said: "John did well to come back, to be fair to him.

"I felt the gods were against me on a couple of occasions but I have got no complaints overall.

"I have been pretty dreadful all week. That was probably the best match I played all week.

"The best player in the tournament won but I had a chance to nick it and probably threw it away."

Higgins's success - his 22nd ranking title - moves him to No 1 in the world rankings above Neil Robertson, the world champion.

* Press Association