Higgins returns to the big stage after reaching Welsh Open final

John Higgins. Picture by Monique Limbos

John Higgins. Picture by Monique Limbos

FOUR TIMES world champion John Higgins secured a place in his first major ranking final in more than 18 months after he beat talented teenager Luca Brecel in the Welsh Open semi-finals.

The Scot now stands just one win away from landing his first major title since winning the Shanghai Masters in September 2012 after he ended the young Belgian’s brilliant run in Cardiff this week with a 6-4 win.

Higgins, 39, who has struggled with performance in recent years, has showed signs over recent days he is returning to the form that saw him become one of snooker’s greats in the modern era and will face either Mark Williams or Ben Woollaston in Sunday’s final.

Brecel had enjoyed a brilliant run, knocking out five opponents including Ricky Walden and world champion Mark Selby but Higgins overcame a spirited fightback from the promising 19-year-old to reach his first ranking final since the 2013 Wuxi Classic.

Higgins made a tremendous start with breaks of 101 and 137 to win the first two frames and had a chance to clear from 49-0 down in the third but missed a tough last red along a side cushion on 52 before Brecel reduced his arrears to 2-1.

Brecel then made a break of 62 to make it 2-2 and then took a scrappy fifth to take the lead.  He also had a chance in the sixth but missed a tricky last red with the rest and a relieved Higgins capitalised for 3-3.

A run of 72 put Higgins ahead before Brecel got the better of frame eight for 4-4.

But Higgins used his all his experience and raised his game when it mattered most as a superb 135 gave him the lead before vital runs of 50 and 26 closed out the match.


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