John Higgins insists the competitive fire continues to burn brightly and he’s well on the way to getting back to his best, writes Will Jennings.
The Wizard of Wishaw had his hopes of a first ranking event title since 2018 dashed by Judd Trump on Saturday as he went down 6-4 against the world No.1 in the English Open semi-finals.
But the four-time king of the Crucible has enjoyed a considerable upturn in form in Milton Keynes, as technical adjustments with his chalk and ferrule helped him down world No.10 Ding Junhui in the last 16.
Higgins was gutted to crash out but reckons it’s only a matter of time before he scoops his 31st ranking event title.
Asked if the desire to win silverware still burns, the 45-year-old said: “Absolutely.
7️⃣9️⃣7️⃣— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) October 17, 2020
That's how many centuries John Higgins has made in his career! 👏
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He leads Judd Trump 4-3 #EnglishOpen pic.twitter.com/xpxDxEWvS2
“You hope so but you never know [win trophies] - we’ll wait and see what happens.
“There’s shoots of recovery - I’m hitting it a bit better, so I’ve got to try and take the positives.
“I’m disappointed - I missed my chances at the end there. I had a good chance to go 5-3 up and messed it up, and I just got weaker and Judd got stronger.
“Obviously right now I’m gutted but if I reflect on it in a couple of days, I’ve played better stuff and hopefully I take it on for the rest of the season.”
World No.7 Higgins, chasing a maiden ranking event title since the Welsh Open in 2018, came out of the blocks quickly as a first-frame break of 50 handed him the lead.
Trump restored parity with a 56 of his own but Higgins hit back with a steady 52.
The two players - who boast 47 major titles between them - then exchanged centuries either side of the mid-session interval before a further visit of 107 put the Scot 4-3 up.
Higgins missed a golden opportunity to open daylight in the eighth frame, however, as Trump levelled once more before taking the lead.
And a gutsy effort of 77 in the tenth frame thwarted Higgins’ hopes and dumped him out of the first Home Nations event of the season.
"I thought I got outplayed, really!"@judd147t is with @andygoldstein05 and @ronnieo147 - and has nice things to say about John Higgins 🤝— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) October 17, 2020
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Higgins says he refound his swagger at the Marshall Arena but was left to rue a string of missed chances that sent him back to Scotland prematurely.
“I was enjoying it - the conditions were beautiful,” he added.
“It's tough with no crowd but I was enjoying the buzz of playing, but I just faltered at the end and you can’t afford to do that with Judd.
“I felt good but I missed too many crucial ones at the end that you can’t afford to miss against people like Judd.”