2023 Crucible – Day 9 – John Higgins wins easily but is still unhappy

This year the second round – last 16 – at the Crucible seems to produce a lot of one-sided matches. Yesterday was no different and John Higgins beat Kyren Wilson with a session to spare.

Here is the report by WST:

Brilliant Higgins Destroys Wilson

John Higgins completed a 13-2 demolition of Kyren Wilson to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship for the 17th time in his career.

It’s 25 years since four-time Crucible king Higgins first became World Champion back in 1998. Until now his form this season hasn’t indicated that he is in a great position to claim his fifth crown, having only made the quarter-finals of one ranking event.

However, today’s victory with a session to spare underlines the 31-time ranking event winner’s title credentials and sends out a significant statement to the field. Higgins now awaits the winner between Mark Selby and Gary Wilson in the quarter-finals.

The Wishaw cueman last captured the sport’s biggest prize in 2011 and since then his quest for a fifth world title has involved a considerable amount of heartbreak. Higgins was runner-up in three consecutive years between 2017 and 2019. His results this season mean he has somewhat come under the radar this time around.

By contrast, world number seven Wilson arrived in Sheffield as one of the tour’s form players, having made the final of the recent Tour Championship. He carried that form over in the first round, firing in the 13th maximum break in Crucible history during his 10-5 victory over Ryan Day.

Wilson’s momentum was brought to an abrupt halt in this morning’s opening session, when Higgins put on a supreme showing to take a clean sweep of the frames and earn an 8-0 advantage.

When play got underway this evening Higgins relentlessly pushed on, stealing the first on the black. It was soon 10-0 when the Scot hammered home a brilliant break of 128.

Wilson eventually staved off the whitewash thanks to a break of 55 in the 11th, but Higgins restored his ten-frame lead by taking the 12th on the black.

The next two frames were traded, before Higgins embarked on a 147 attempt. His run ended on 80, but it was enough to see him over the line as an emphatic 13-2 victor.

It was amazing. To beat Kyren 13-12, I would have bitten your hand off. To beat him 13-2 was an incredible result for me,” said 47-year-old Higgins.

I’ve been feeling happy with my game for the last month. I was beginning to time the ball well. You know the nerves are going to kick in for your first round match. I played pretty well in it. I know Kyren was maybe having trouble with his cue. I hope he gets that fixed, but I can’t complain. I’m hitting the ball well.

Every World Championship win is special, but it would probably be the hardest one. If you have to come through maybe Mark Selby if he wins, possibly Mark Allen and then maybe O’Sullivan or Anthony McGill. It would be amazing to have two Scottish guys in the final, but there is a long way to go.

I’ve been coming here for so long and I always seem to play well here. I just have to try to play the same again. It is going to be really difficult, but I can’t do any more.”

Wilson said: “He was awesome. He literally gave me nothing at all. It was a very frustrating match. I felt everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Sometimes in this game you need a bit of luck on your side. In a long format it can be swings and roundabouts, but it never went for me. John capitalised on that and kept turning the screw.

I felt amazing coming in here tonight and as soon as I hit a couple of balls I realised that a weight is loose in my cue. That is another setback, but I’m not going to use it as an excuse. I had fancied having a good go of it until that point though.”

Kyren explained that his cue got damaged when it fell on the ground while he was busy signing stuff and chatting with a group of fans after his previous match. That’s very unfortunate of course.

John Higgins is unhappy with the QFs schedule. I can understand why as he is the one who, unless he wins with a session to spare again, will need to play two consecutive sessions, afternoon and evening on Wednesday. That’s not nice. He expressed the opinion that there should be two matches playing all their sessions simultaneously on Tuesday morning, evening and Wednesday afternoon, whilst the other two would play on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning and evening. That would indeed be better for the players BUT it also means that a risk exists to have two empty sessions on Wednesday afternoon and evening if all matches are one-sided.

You will tell that this is very unlikely but … this afternoon we have only the Robert Milkins v Si Jiahui going and Si is 11-5 up, meaning that he needs only two frames. This could be over in half an hour. In the evening, Anthony McGill is also 11-5 up on Jack Lisowski whilst Mark Selby is 10-6 up on Gary Wilson. This could possibly be over before any of the matches reach the MSI. It’s unlikely, but it’s nevertheless a possibility. It’s a problem for WST because they need to provide some kind of entertainment for the paying fans in such circumstances and that’s certainly why they schedule the QFs, the way they do in such a way that only the last session could possibly be “empty” or finish before the MSI.

As mentioned Si is currently only two frames away from the QFs. Si looked tired at the start of yesterday’s session – probably he didn’t sleep too well – but Milkins was very poor and despite not playing at his best Si increased his lead.

McGill also only needs two frames to beat Jack Lisowski but that match may well still have some life in it because Jack was 10-1 down and managed to win four of the last five frames in their second session. It’s a big ask though.

Mark Selby leads Gary Wilson by 10-6. It was 6-6 at the MSI of the second session, but Mark pulled away in the last mini-session. Gary will need a strong start. He’s capable of course.

4 thoughts on “2023 Crucible – Day 9 – John Higgins wins easily but is still unhappy

  1. Terrific performances from Ronnie and John Higgins.

    I’ve been wondering why the “Class of ’92” are still classier and more solid than the rest. Possibilities:

    * They learnt to play snooker at the height of the UK snooker boom, so would be the very best of a large bunch.

    * They had good competitive experience as teenagers, at Pro-Am tournaments and to establish themselves as professionals (Ronnie has talked about this).

    * They learnt to play with less responsive balls, on slower tables, so have a wider range of shots; especially a command of subtle spins. When you watch Ronnie or John, they seem to have a wider range of options than the players who are 7 years younger – even Mark Selby, who reads the table extremely well. (Ding also has a wide range of shots, but I think he also learnt on slow tables.)

    What do you think? Most of you know more about snooker than I do.

    • I think you are right and there are other factors as well. The game was only “opened” in 1991. That means that before 1991 people like Ken Doherty or Peter Ebdon were not (allowed to turn) pros. They were amateurs but those interested in the sport knew that they were better then most pros, even top pros. But, because they were amateurs, young Ronnie and Higgins had many opportunities to play them and learn from them. Ronnie’s father f.i. arranged practice sessions between Ronnie and Ken. Regarding mastering certain shots, it is worth noting that many of the players of the past also played billiards. Jimmy White for instance has a wide range of shots that are essentially “billiard” shots. I remember him saying that he would advice all young aspiring snooker players to play both games as this would enrich their panoply of shots.

      • Monique – I think you’re right… when I see Ronnie or John Higgins, they look like billiards players who have turned to snooker (as most of the greats did before around 1990). Most of the younger players look more like pool players.

  2. I only like a procession when Ronnie is winning, lol. Yesterday I felt bad for Kyren. I did not expect him to win but did not expect such a disaster either. It al shows how pre-Crucible form indicates nothing and makes me chuckle at all the predictions made after the first round.

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