As another seventeen days of the 2009 ‘World Snooker Championship’ comes to an end, it is John Higgins that stands victorious for a third time. Arguably the best match player on the snooker circuit, his success further cements his legacy as one of the best players of the modern era. His victory draws him level with the likes of John Spencer and Ronnie O’sullivan with three titles apiece. Only Stephen Hendy (7 Titles), Steve Davis (6) and Ray Reardon (6) stand more successful at the world’s premier tournament.
Not to diminish the achievements of Hendry, Davis and Reardon, but Higgins’ victories like O’Sullivan’s, have been achieved in an era that has an abundance of players attaining an exceptional standard, that was not as evident in their successful years. Any one the final eight combatants would have been a worthy champion, as I am sure some of them may be in the future. Murphy, a worthy former champion in his own right, didn’t seem to fire in the final, which shouldn’t distract from Higgins’ achievements. Murphy’s pre final statement that “Higgins is the best match player on the circuit” was reflected in all the final statistics. From pot success, safety success, points scored and any other category you care to mention, Higgins without appearing to hit top form himself was superior.
O’Sullivan’s pre tournament statement, although somewhat arrogant, “that only he or Higgins had the capacity to win the title” appeared closer to the mark than we may have given credence. It takes a certain type of player to close out a match and both Higgins, like O’Sullivan are leading exponents of that killer instinct.
If the tournament was lacking in final frame encounters, Higgins was not. Against both Jamie Cope and Mark Selby he came from behind to take victory. As clearly pointed out by the BBC commentary team, the hardest frame to seal is the final one. Well, at least for some, as champions elect appear to be able to find what is required; ‘Cometh the hour cometh the man’.
According to statistics, standards of play were at their highest, well at least in terms of break building, as the previous best of 68 centuries for the championship was shattered with a staggering 84 centuries. Whether this can be attributed to the cut of the pockets in any way, I will leave that to the purists to debate. However, how Hendry’s final black of a wonderfully crafted ‘maximum 147 break’ eventually fell, I am not quite sure. Even his somewhat stifled celebration pointed to an element of astonishment.
I am sure the debate of who is the best player to lift a cue will rumble on for years. Although O’Sullivan lays claim to being the most naturally gifted player of his craft, it’s with contention that Higgins’ success will cement him as arguably the best match player of the modern era.