None of the poster boys – the top three players in the one year list – are still in the tournament. Actually none of them reached the semi-finals. Indeed, yesterday afternoon, Mark Selby was beaten by John Higgins in one of the most extraordinary matches I’ve watched since I follow this sport, and that’ s about 16 years.
Higgins Hands Selby Record Defeat
Selby scored just seven points in the match – the lowest ever tally in a best-of-11 frame professional contest. The former world number one potted just three balls as he lost 6-0 for the first time since the 2015 UK Championship, and suffered his first ever whitewash against Higgins in a ranking event.
In fact Selby made no more than a handful of mistakes, but was demolished by one of snooker’s all-time greats at the peak of his powers. Higgins has been a pro for 29 years and won 30 ranking events including four world titles, but admits he has never been happier with his game.
The 45-year-old Scot is yet to conceded a frame in Milton Keynes this week, having beaten Jordan Brown 6-0 in first round. His next opponent is Kyren Wilson on Saturday evening.
Higgins hasn’t captured a ranking title since the 2018 Welsh Open but is now just two wins away from ending that drought and taking the £125,000 top prize. Today’s result is also crucial to his hopes of qualifying for next month’s Cazoo Tour Championship as he now moves into the top eight of the one-year ranking list.
Breaks of 60, 70 and 63 gave Higgins the first three frames today as his opponent failed to scored a point. Selby had a rare scoring chance in frame four but potted just a red and blue before running out of position, and Higgins took it for 4-0.
The interval changed nothing as Higgins compiled a run of 100 to extend his lead. Selby potted the first red of frame six but didn’t finish on a colour, and Higgins won it with breaks of 49 and 60. The Wizard of Wishaw finished the match with a 97% pot success rate and a points aggregate of 546-7 in his favour.
“It’s the best I have ever played or ever felt,” said Higgins. “Doing it against someone like Mark is incredible. I have felt good about my game since the turn of the year. I lost to Yan Bingtao in the Masters final, then I had Covid and missed the German Masters, but I played well at the Welsh Open so I came here in good spirits.
“It would mean a lot to win the event but it means more to me that I’m hitting the ball well and feeling confident. Over the last couple of years I have been scratching about at some tournaments, not sure where my next win was coming from. Now I’m putting myself in positions to win and hopefully it will open up for me.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Kyren Wilson in terms of the way he plays the game and goes about his career. He reminds of me of Mark Selby because he gives everything to the game and wants to keep on learning. He’s going to be around for years winning titles. I wish I was young like that, it would be brilliant to be involved at that age with so many big events now. Obviously I’m at the end of my career just hanging on.”
Selby said: “I’ve never had a match where I I had so few chances. John froze me out from start to finish, he played an incredible match.”
That’s scary news for the rest of the tour…
Ronnie who was waiting to play his semi-final match in the evening, was watching and here is what he thought about it:
PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP 2021: ‘IT WAS EVIL, THE TOUGHEST EVER’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON JOHN HIGGINS WIN
Ronnie O’Sullivan hit back from trailing 3-0 to complete a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the Players Championship semi-finals, but the six-times defending world champion was still reflecting on the “granite” display of John Higgins to whitewash Mark Selby 6-0 earlier. O’Sullivan believes Higgins produced the “toughest” snooker he has ever witnessed to secure a semi-final meeting with Kyren Wilson.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has heaped praise on John Higgins for his “incredible” 6-0 whitewash of Mark Selby in the Players Championship quarter-finals on Friday.
“I watched it. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t watch it in the end. It was granite. It was evil, evil,” said O’Sullivan after completing a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals from 3-0 behind.
JOHN JUST SHOWED WHAT A CLASS PLAYER HE IS BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY SELBY IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS AT WINNING THOSE TYPES OF MATCHES.
“But Higgins, you could see it was almost like he didn’t want it to end. It was ridiculous snooker really.
THAT’S PROBABLY THE TOUGHEST MATCH SNOOKER I’VE SEEN IN MY LIFE. IT WAS BORDERING ON OBSCENELY TOUGH.
“Why would you want to be that tough? It was incredible snooker. It’s not easy to play. It’s okay playing defensive snooker, but you have to play it well.
“John and Selby play it better than anybody so if you can play it well, you play it.
“For me, it’s a waste of time trying to play that stuff because I do a lot of hard work 80 percent of the time, but then mess it up with one shot. They are very astute around that stuff. It was a real purist’s game of snooker.
“If he starts doing that to me, I’m going to be sitting in that chair quite a lot.“
Needless to say, should he face John Higgins tomorrow, he will be hoping that his opponent level goes down a notch … or two. It’s entirely possible as, when players get older, it’s not so much their asbility that declines, it’s the consistency that goes. We have seen it with Ronnie and Mark Williams and even with John Higgins this season.
Ronnie had been sublime in beating Jack Lisoski in the quarter-finals, but he struggled badly en route to his win over Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals. All about that match here.