John Higgins emphatically ends ranking title drought at the Players Championship
John Higgins ended a three-year wait for a ranking title at the 2021 Players Championship with a 10-3 rout of Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.
Higgins capped off a prolific string of performances in Milton Keynes by thrashing his ‘Class of 92’ rival to seal his 31st career ranking title and a first since the 2018 Welsh Open.
The 45-year-old, who becomes the oldest ranking event winner since the late Doug Mountjoy in 1989, dropped just four frames in the entire tournament on his way to the £125,000 title.
“It’s the best week I’ve ever had,” Higgins told ITV4. “I’ve won world titles and different tournaments but, for the whole week, the way I’ve felt and the calibre of players I’ve faced, I’ve managed to win quite convincingly.
“It’s not really like me to do that. Normally, I’d be scrapping it out in final-frame deciders.
“This week, I’ve done a Ronnie by going through the field pretty easy. It’s a brilliant feeling.”
Higgins inflicted the damage in the first session by racing into a 5-0 lead and eventually forging a 6-2 advantage at the close of play in the afternoon.
He quickly crushed any hopes of a miraculous O’Sullivan comeback by winning four of the next five frames in the evening session to clinch victory, doing so in style with his eighth century of the tournament.
O’Sullivan won two of his three frames by virtue of century breaks and was resigned to a fourth consecutive ranking final defeat, just seven days on from his most recent.
“John was just unbelievable,” admitted O’Sullivan. “I’ve been watching his games all week. He was solid and scored well today, he was just too good.
“I knew I had to play well to have a chance and maybe I put a bit of pressure on myself.”
Higgins came out on top in a cagey opening frame but quickly found his range by producing consecutive breaks of 92, 68, 142 and 128 to storm into a 5-0 lead.
O’Sullivan got off the mark with a break of 82 in frame six but threw caution to the wind at the back end of a lengthy seventh frame and was punished as Higgins restored a five-frame advantage.
O’Sullivan, however, hit back superbly by compiling the highest break of the tournament with a 144 total clearance to trail 6-2 at the interval.
Higgins got back on track with a 51 break after the restart, though O’Sullivan responded with a quick-fire break of 110 to trail 7-3.
The reigning World Champion, however, was left pointless in the next two frames as Higgins added breaks of 70 and 77 to move within one of victory.
Higgins then sealed the deal in style with a break of 127 to get his hands on the Players Championship trophy for the first time and clinch a spot in November’s Champion of Champions.