21.10.08

JOHN HIGGINS: GRAND PRIX CHAMPION

John Higgins could be described as an underachiever, which sounds like a strange thing to say about a player who has won the World Championship twice, the UK Championship twice, the Masters twice, 19 ranking events in total and been world no.1 for a total of three seasons.

However, it is actually meant as a compliment.

Higgins’s victory in the Royal London Watches Grand Prix on Sunday was his first major title since he captured his second world crown 18 months earlier.

He was one of my tips for Betfair for the reasons that he was in his home city and it was about time he won another one.

I have to say – and hope John would not take offence at this – that overall it was probably the worst he has ever played to win a ranking title.

But this should be of no concern. He has the trophy after all.

When he became world champion in 1998 at the age of 22 it looked as if the Scot would become the game’s next dominant force after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.

It didn’t quite happen, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the standard around this time was the highest it has ever been – before or since. Higgins had several top quality opponents, most notably his contemporaries Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams.

It all went wrong for him when he lost 17-15 to Williams from 14-10 up in the 2000 Crucible semi-finals. Had he won the world title that year he may well have won it three, four or maybe five times.

(Of course, he still could but, as he is now 33, this seems unlikely).

But the other major factor that stopped him dominating was his growing realisation that there was more to life than snooker.

John became a father for the first time in 2001 and again in 2004 and earlier this year. He is a family man and enjoys family life. In an interview earlier this year he said, “I don’t think when I’m on my deathbed I’ll wish I spent more time on a snooker table.”

In other words, he is contented enough at his profession that he can, from time to time, cut down on practising, even if this means he sometimes produces performances well below standards we expect from him.

Something interesting has happened to Higgins in the last couple of years: he has suddenly become interested in the administration of snooker.

He has helped to set up the World Series and was involved in setting up a new players union.

He has also become quite outspoken about certain aspects of the way the game is run and clearly believes that snooker must look to life beyond the UK to grow.

All this suggests he is already looking to life beyond his professional career, even though there’s no reason why it doesn’t have several more years to run.

Crucially, Higgins has the respect of his fellow professionals. In fact, most believe he is the best all round player in the sport.

I admire his off table enterprise but hope he continues to hone his talents on the table because there is no reason why he can’t win at least one more world title.

His career record speaks for itself. That it could be even better is testament to his all round skill.

Not just now but when we are all older and we talk of the great snooker players we have seen, John Higgins will always be mentioned.
JOHN HIGGINS: THE STATS

Date of birth: 18/5/75
Home Town: Wishaw, Scotland
Turned professional: 1992
World Ranking: 5
Provisional ranking: 6
Highest ever ranking: 1 (1998-2000, 2007/08)
Prize money last season: £138,775
Prize money this season: £87,500
Total career prize money: £4,563,595
Career centuries: 379
Centuries last season: 17
Centuries this season: 5
Highest tournament break: 147 (x5)
World ranking titles: (19) 1994, 1999, 2005, 2008 Grand Prix; 1995, 1996 International Open; 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004 British Open; 1995, 1997 German Open; 1997 European Open, 1998, 2007 World Championship; 1998, 2000 UK Championship; 1999 China International; 2000 Welsh Open

7 comments:

Monique said...

I always have a problem with that word: "underachiever"... underachiever as compared to what? The only honest answer is ... our own expectations and these mainly take into account what we see at the table and only that. But the players are not robots wheeled to the table to play and hopefully win. They are human beings with their own desires, strenghts, weaknesses and priorities. You mentioned the "O'Sullivan package", well the "Higgins package" includes the family man, a few drinking problems (hopefully overcomed by now), lots of pride and recently an increased interest in the future of the game asking for a lot of energy and hard work...

Mix and shake ... John Higgins is quite a achiever, his record speaks for itself.

ProSnookerBlog said...

I guess the point is that he had the potential to be as dominant as Hendry or Davis but couldn't manage it. Can see what you mean though.

Dave H said...

It wasn't a criticism of John - quite the opposite actually

Monique said...

I know what you meant Dave. Higgins had the talent and ability to achieve more. However he didn't have the personality and the desire ... and that's part of the package, exactly as much as talent and ability are.
I'm not criticizing John for that: he made life choices I consider very honourable and valuable ones. But considering that, he is no underachiever.

CJW said...

The truth is, Dave, that it's both a compliment to and a criticism of John. Both spot on, too... ;)

CJW said...

... John would be the first to admit you're two times right. ;) :)

Anonymous said...

Higgins is an excellent player and has shown the resolve of a true champion over many years now, however I disagree with his comments about stuffing tradition if they're offering more money to play the World Championships in China.

Those comments would be more understandable coming from someone who hadn't earned such a huge sum from playing the game, but I much prefer Steve Davis' view that the tradition of the game is important and if China wants a huge event it has to earn it by organising someething new themselves and proving that they can deliver the goods.