Snooker: Higgins closes in on Hendry's No 1 ranking

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SCOTLAND'S world No 2, John Higgins, still only 22, hopes to secure his eighth world-ranking title at the expense of Ronnie O'Sullivan, the 22-year-old UK champion, in today's best of 17 frames final of the Regal Scottish Open, the fifth of the season's eight world ranking events, at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Neither semi-final burst into full flower. Higgins picked off the world No 23, Fergal O'Brien 6-2 while O'Sullivan was a 6-2 winner over the world No 16, Stephen Lee.

Having lost his three previous quarter finals, O'Brien reached his first semi by beating Ken Doherty, the world champion and a fellow Dubliner, from two down with three to play but, a day later, looked scarcely the same player. He did win the third and seventh frames but Higgins, who made breaks of 50, 92, 77, 82 and 53 played to his familiarly high standard and was always in control. The German open champion in December and runner- up both in October's Grand Prix at Bournemouth and last month's Regal Welsh Open, Higgins had already reduced the immense lead Stephen Hendry had at the top of the world rankings even before the world No 1's exit to a fellow Scot, Marcus Campbell 5-4 in the last 16.

O'Sullivan, meanwhile trailed Lee 2-1 but made breaks of 54, 59 and 74 in the next three frames to lead 5-2. Lee was going well with 60 in the eighth but O'Sullivan sent the sell-out crowd home happy with a virtuoso 67 clearance for frame and match. This apart, the day had produced two anti-climaxes after a week of upsets and tight finishes, notably Higgins's precarious 5-4 quarter-final survival on the final pink at the expense of Euan Henderson.

Sindhu Pulsirivong, the Bangkok millionaire who is the most influential figure in Asian snooker, has stated that he will resign from the board of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association if its chairman, Rex Williams, and two directors, Jim Meadowcroft and Bob Close, survive a resolution to remove them at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 4 March. In turn, he has been told that under a never previously enforced rule he could be removed from the board for failing to attend its last three meetings, all of which have been held in England. He was re-elected in December by a 45-2 margin.