Snooker: Higgins turns the tables

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The Independent Online
JOHN HIGGINS, who superseded Stephen Hendry as world No 1 by winning the world title last spring, turned a 4-1 deficit into a 6-5 victory in their Regal Scottish Masters semi-final at Motherwell Civic Centre last night.

Higgins will play the UK champion, Ronnie O'Sullivan, for the pounds 61,000 first prize today following O'Sullivan's recovery from two down with three to play to beat the defending champion Nigel Bond 6-5.

Snatching the second frame on the black with a 53 clearance and adding the third after Higgins had failed at the most elementary of pinks, Hendry led 2-1, and then 4-1 with breaks of 31, 89 and 49.

The six-times world champion also had an early chance in each of the next two frames although it was Higgins, with 84 and 89, who closed to 4-3.

A more fragmentary frame also went to Higgins but he went one down with two to play to Hendry's 129 total clearance. Trapped in a snooker, Hendry let Higgins in for a winning 58 to bring up 5-5 but both players missed routine blacks from its spot in the highly charged atmosphere of the decider before Higgins settled it with a match-winning 50. "It was a scrappy standard but I'm not surprised because everyone was building it up so much," said Higgins.

O'Sullivan is a player of huge talent who finds it difficult to buckle down to grinding out a win. In trailing 4-1 he lost the fourth frame from the unlikely position of three snookers needed. "I'm a lunatic, aren't I?" he said.

He recovered to 4-3 but an ill-advised attempt to double the last red in the eighth led only to Bond clearing to go two up with three to play.

Brimming with frustration as he was, O'Sullivan competed with a determination he does not always show. Although his highest break was only 31 he at least eliminated unforced errors and impatient shot selections in accruing the last three frames for his place in the final, for which improved form will surely be needed.

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