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Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins: Players Championship final 2021 preview – Wizard out to deny Rocket third title

Jamie Shaw in Players Championship

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Record-equalling Ronnie O’Sullivan recovers to reach Players Championship final

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John Higgins emphatically ends ranking title drought at the Players Championship

O’Sullivan and Higgins go head-to-head (Photo by Nigel French/PA Images)

A red hot John Higgins looks to deny fellow snooker great Ronnie O’Sullivan a third Players Championship title when the pair collide in the final in Milton Keynes on Sunday.

Despite their regular encounters down the years, this marks the first meeting between O’Sullivan and Higgins in a ranking event final since the Grand Prix back in 2005.

Dubbed the ‘El Clásico’ of snooker, this box office fixture comes at a time when both players are enjoying a blistering spell of form and has all the hallmarks of an epic.

Higgins has incredibly dropped just one frame en route to the final, whitewashing newly-crowned Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown and three-time World Champion Mark Selby 6-0 before thrashing Kyren Wilson 6-1.

The 45-year-old compiled five century breaks in the process of winning 17 consecutive frames this week and is now bidding to end his three-year wait for a 31st career ranking title.

This marks the Scotman’s first appearance in a ranking final since the 2019 World Championship and he is out to end a run of four straight defeats in ranking finals.

Runner-up to Yan Bingtao in last month’s Masters, in which he defeated O’Sullivan along the way, Higgins has made minor alterations to his cue action which have paid dividends this week.

O’Sullivan is also looking to end a run of three consecutive ranking final defeats, all having come this season, the most recent of which at the Welsh Open a week ago.

The reigning and six-time World Champion appears to be going through the gears as the season nears its Crucible crescendo and is making a record 57th appearance in a ranking final.

Back-to-back Players Champion in 2018 and 2019, ‘The Rocket’ has so often produced his brilliant best in this event, notably making his 1,000th century break in the last frame to clinch the title two years ago.

His run to the final this week began with a narrow 6-5 victory over Ding Junhui, before thrashing Jack Lisowski 6-1 and recovering from 3-1 down to defeat Barry Hawkins 6-4 in the Semi-Finals.

Of their 53 previous meetings stretching back to 1994, Higgins has the marginal upper-hand in the head-to-head stakes with 27 wins to O’Sullivan’s 26.

Their latest unmissable show-down gets under way from 1pm GMT for a total of eight frames, before being played to a finish over the best of 19 from 7pm.


Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins – Players’ View:

O’Sullivan: “John showed what a class player he is because [Mark] Selby is one of the best in the business at those type of matches. It was the toughest matchplay I’ve ever seen, it was bordering on the obscene.

“How can you be that tough? It’s not easy to play defensive snooker that well. It’s a waste of time for me to try because I can do it for 80% of the time, then mess up with one shot. But those guys are very astute, it was real purists’ stuff.

“If I play John in the final and he does that to me, I’ll be sitting in my chair a lot.”

Higgins: “I’ve always said Ronnie is the best ever, in my eyes. I grew up playing him, and he’s still winning the big events, challenging Selby, Robertson and Trump.

“The likes of me and Mark Williams are in the tier below, trying to nick a title here and there.”