UNTIL now the snooker world had not seen a huge smile on John Higgins’ face for a long time.
Months and even years of struggle came to an end on Sunday when the Scot ended one of his lowest spells of his career by winning the Welsh Open.
Prior to last night’s events you have to go back to September 2012 – more than 30 months ago – when the four-times world champion last lifted aloft a major trophy – when he won the Shanghai Masters.
Since reaching the final of the Wuxi Classic less than a year later, snooker fans have not seen the 39-year-old in amongst the business end of major ranking events – a strange sight given his status in the sport as one of the greats having won four World Championship titles and many other majors.
After one last 16 or last 32 exit after another Higgins tried everything to rediscover his winning touch including changing his cue and even alternating his technique which had previously worked so well. And the longer he went without turning around his fortunes the realisation his glory days would possibly be behind him for good grew bigger after each defeat.
But just like the player he is and who millions have loved over the years, Higgins has kept to his task in the hope he would once again return to winning trophies. That moment came again on Sunday after victory over Ben Woollaston earned him his fourth Welsh Open a title – a record for the tournament.
The secret – going back to basics and believing in your game.
“The doubts over the past couple of years were really deep,” Higgins said after the 9-3 win in Cardiff.
“I was thinking far too much and not putting enough work in. I was trying different things with my technique instead of just going back to basics and potting balls. It was snow-balling and I was just scratching, trying to find something.
“Over the last couple of months it has felt better, so to be here this week and to feel as if my game is back and my technique is there is brilliant. In the last two years I didn’t think it could happen again.”
Higgins form was so bad it saw him slide down the world rankings to a point where his top 16 place looked to be unsecure. Winning this tournament has put an end to those concerns for the short term at least.
And now with a major trophy to his name once again, Higgins hopes he can end the season strong continuing his good run of form – especially with the World Championship just around the corner.
“Overall I’ve played some good matches this week, and when I haven’t played well I have dug in and kept going. To be sitting here with a trophy is a great feeling,” he added.
“This gives me a lot of confidence that I can compete with the top players.”