JOHN HIGGINS won the Australian Open title for the first time after winning a final frame decider to beat Martin Gould in a pulsating final.
The four times world champion hit a decisive break of 89 in the deciding frame of an entertaining match to land his 27th ranking title of his career and in doing so denied Gould his first major silverware.
Victory today saw Higgins claim his second major ranking title of 2015 after he won the Welsh Open five months ago and is the first major ranking event winner of the 2015/16 campaign.
Higgins joins Stuart Bingham, Barry Hawkins, Marco Fu and Judd Trump to have won the tournament since its launch four years ago.
Despite reaching the milestone age of 40, Higgins still proved he could handle the big game occasion after he came back from 4-2 down and held off an impressive fightback from Gould late on to claim the trophy and the A$75,000 cash prize.
NUMBER OF RANKING TITLES – TOP FIVE
1. Stephen Hendry – 36
2. Steve Davis – 28
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan – 27
4. John Higgins – 27
5. Mark Williams – 18
After a mean couple of years on the baize which he classed as one of the worst periods of his career, Higgins is now enjoying success again since February’s victory over Ben Woollaston in the Welsh Open final.
As well as holding aloft the Australian Open title, Higgins also reached the World Cup final with Scotland team mate Stephen Maguire only a few weeks ago.
And his bid for silverware today began well after he won the first two frames of the contest – which was Higgins’ and Gould’s first meeting in a major ranking event.
But Gould hit his stride from the third frame as breaks of 101 and 86 in successive frames saw him draw level before he won a scrappy fifth frame and then hit a break of 89 to go 4-2 ahead.
But the next two frames left the final beautifully poised at the halfway stage as Higgins gave something for Gould to ponder by winning the next two frames with runs of 112 and 48.
Higgins began life where he left off after the restart as he turned the match back to his favour going 6-4 ahead. Gould responded brilliantily in the elevenh frame with a break of 138 – the highest of the match to make it 6-5.
A missed plant from Gould proved costly in frame 12 as Higgins cleared with a break of 68 to restore his two-frame lead at the mid-session interval and move just two frames away from glory.
But Gould was not finished there as he took the next two frames to get himself right back in contention at 7-7 with just a maximum of three frames left to play,
A break of 60 then saw Higgins take pole position once again and the Scot looked to have clinched the match in the 16th frame but missed the final red along the cushion. Gould cleared up to take the match into a decider.
Gould had first chance in the final frame but it was Higgins who stood firm with his match-winning break of 89.
HIGGINS’ ROUTE TO AUSSIE GLORY
R1 – beat Michael Georgiou 5-2
R2 – beat Fergal O’Brien 5-1
QF – beat Joe Perry 5-3
SF – beat Jamie Jones 6-4
Final – beat Martin Gould 9-8