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Tour Championship snooker 2021 LIVE results: Ronnie O'Sullivan leads John Higgins 5-3

Preview

Ronnie O’Sullivan will struggle if John Higgins can replicate his PLayers’ Championship form, according to Stephen Hendry.

“If the same Higgins as the one who won Players [Championship] a couple of weeks ago turns up tomorrow there’s only 1 winner,” Hendry.

O’Sullivan admitted after that meeting he had no chance to beat his longtime rival.

“John was just unbelievable. John was solid, scored well today and was just too good,” the Rocket said.

“I knew I had to play well today and maybe I put a little bit of pressure on myself thinking I had to play as well as I could to have a chance.

“Once you don’t punish John when he’s playing as well as he is, you do a lot of sitting in your chair and there’s not a lot you can do sometimes when someone’s as good as John.

“He’s tying you up in knots, making 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s, you just have to sit it out and wait for an early night.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan handed GOAT snub as rival John Higgins named snooker’s all-time best

Six-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has been overlooked in favour of John Higgins for the title of snooker’s greatest ever player, according to a new study. ‘The Rocket’ is widely regarded as one of the finest competitors to have graced the Crucible, but was beaten to the all-time crown by Higgins, who won the most recent meeting between the pair last month.
The 45-year-old registered an impressive 10-3 victory to seal the Players Championship title and condemn O’Sullivan to his fourth successive loss in a final.

Higgins has now claimed another triumph over his old rival after he was named the greatest player of all time as part of a study by the University of Limerick.

The project, led by Joseph D O’Brien, examined close to 48,000 results between 1968 and 2020 before concluding that Higgins stands head and shoulders above the rest.

A complex algorithm weighted results based on the individual quality of opponents and the head-to-head records of leading players.

Higgins was named at the top of the all-time list ahead of O’Sullivan in second place, with Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry occupying third and fourth respectively.

JUST IN: Stephen Hendry won’t want to be ‘made to look silly’ in comeback

However, although the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ was happy to gain the recognition, he claimed that O’Sullivan would be his own pick.

“I’m truly flattered,” said Higgins. “But I have to admit I have not won enough of the big titles consistently to be regarded as the greatest of all time.

“If I had to give the accolade to anyone it would have to be my rival for so many years…Ronnie!”

Higgins has claimed four World Championship titles over the course of his professional career, while O’Sullivan boasts six, one short of seven-time winner Hendry.

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The latter made his long-awaited comeback earlier this month, putting his retirement on hold to pursue another attempt at silverware.

He took on long-time friend Matthew Selt at the Gibraltar Open but was defeated in an anticlimactic return to the table.

O’Sullivan issued his own verdict on the ‘GOAT’ debate last year, suggesting that Hendry could also be considered as the best to have ever played the game.

“If I’m not the greatest player that’s ever played the game, then there’s probably only one other player who can claim that mantle, and that would be Stephen Hendry,” he told Yahoo.

“For me, it’s about just having fun with the game, winning and losing, take that out of it and I have nothing to prove. My CV’s great.

“I’ve got nothing to prove as a snooker player and for me it’s about just having fun, enjoying the game and enjoying being at the tournaments.

“And enjoying knowing that if I did put my head down and played a full schedule, I probably would be still one of the best players and as dominant as anyone could be dominant in their sport.”

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump sent John Higgins warning as Stephen Hendry record eyed

John Higgins has sights set on winning April’s World Snooker Championship as he looks to deny Ronnie O’Sullivan the chance to match Stephen Hendry’s modern era tally of seven triumphs, with world No 1 Judd Trump also looking to build on his sole 2019 victory.
The Worlds are snooker’s biggest prize with O’Sullivan a six-time Crucible champion after getting the better of Kyren Wilson 18-8 to net the £500,000 winnings last year.

The 45-year-old, a record 37-time ranking title winner, is plotting to claim back-to-back triumphs at the tournament for the second time in his career after 2012 and 2013.

O’Sullivan has only ever lost one final at the Worlds having been bettered by Mark Selby in 2014 though still finds himself behind the great Hendry.

Top-ranked Trump, meanwhile, is looking to build on his 2019 victory over Higgins in the Triple Crown tournament having been challenged by O’Sullivan in January to go on and win 60 to 70 ranking titles given his quality and his age, at just 31.

Higgins, meanwhile, is a four-time Worlds winner but lost three successive finals between 2017 and 2019 to Selby, Mark Williams and Trump.

The 45-year-old Scot became the oldest ranking title winner since Doug Mountjoy in 1989 by beating O’Sullivan in the Players Championship final in Milton Keynes on Sunday.

Higgins was imperious throughout the entire week and dropped just four frames across his four matches, three of which came in his 10-3 victory of long-time rival O’Sullivan on the final day.

Now, the 31-time ranking title winner is plotting a fifth success at snooker’s most prestigious tournament next month – and has warned O’Sullivan, Trump and co. that he’s feeling more confident than he has in the last few years despite his recent finals appearances.

“This is the best week so far in my career, but to win the Worlds for a fifth time, that would obviously top it,” Higgins declared.

“It’s going to be really difficult but listen, I’m going there now in a better frame of mind than I’ve done in previous years, so that’s a good thing.

“I think it must have [sent a message]. I was maybe a player in the last couple of years that the top boys would come against thinking, ‘well if he plays well he’s got a chance but if he doesn’t play well I can knock him over pretty easy.’

“So this must let everybody know that I’m still a contender.”

And he said after losing to Higgins: “To be honest with you, as long as I keep pitching up playing, all you can do is just do your best.

“If your best is good enough to only get you to finals then you have to accept that. Hopefully one week I’ll get it right on the final day and hopefully get a trophy.

“But you can’t be too disappointed. There’s 126 players that would swap positions with me at the moment. You’ve got to take some positives from it.

“John was unbelievable this week, fantastic, played brilliant snooker, masterclass today and it’s good to see such a great player back winning.

“It’s good for snooker, that you don’t see very often. I’m happy for John and his family.”

King of the Crucible Hendry, who dominated in the 1990s with five straight successes between 1992 and 1996, is meanwhile plotting a return to his favourite venue this year after his snooker comeback.

The 52-year-old returns to the table for the first time in nine years at the Gibraltar Open at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, an event from which O’Sullivan and Higgins have withdrawn after their Players Championship final.

Hendry is not coming out of retirement merely for the fun of it however and is desperate to play at the Worlds once more.

“I lost 13-2 to Steve Maguire and I basically gave up about a third of the way through the match,” said Hendry looking back at the 2012 quarter-finals of the World Championships.

“I knew it was over. I knew I couldn’t compete. I would like my last match at the Crucible, if possible, to be a match I can look back on and think, ‘I played well, I did everything I could even if I lost’.

“I want a game where I can be happy with what I gave rather than that 13-2 embarrassment. One of my goals in this comeback is not about winning, but just to get back to the Crucible.

“I am going to have to win four matches [in qualifying] just to get there, almost a mini tournament, so it’s going to be so, so difficult. But there’s no point in setting yourself easy goals.”

Ronnie O'Sullivan honest about Players Championship loss after John Higgins 'masterclass'

“I’ve said it there’s nobody in the game who has got more respect than I’ve got for Ronnie. The best ever.

“So for me to beat the best ever tonight, it’s a brilliant feather in my cap. Brilliant. It’s the best week I’ve ever had.

“I’ve won world titles and different tournaments but for the whole week, the way I’ve felt, the calibre of players I’ve come up against, I’ve managed to win quite convincingly.

“It’s not really like me to do that. Now normally I’d be scrapping it out, final frame deciders and the like.

“But this week I’ve done like a Ronnie, I’ve been through the field pretty easy. It’s a brilliant feeling, a brilliant feeling.”

Despite his emphatic loss, O’Sullivan did at least manage a seven-minute break of 144 – the highest of the tournament to pocket £10,000, denying Barry Hawkins the bonus prize.

Players Championship snooker final LIVE: John Higgins builds 5-0 lead vs Ronnie O'Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on John Higgins in the final of the Players Championship today as he seeks to win a record-extending 38th ranking title. ‘The Rocket’ is in the final of a ranking tournament for the 58th time in his career and has matched Stephen Hendry’s finals record in doing so, having already overtaken the great Scot for most titles (37 to 36).
O’Sullivan came from 3-0 down in the semi-finals to beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 as he looks to do what he couldn’t last week at the Welsh Open, when he lost in the final to Jordan Brown.

Speaking after downing Hawkins on Friday night, O’Sullivan said: “It’d be great to win on Sunday. I’m pleased I’ve got a day off. I don’t know if the nine-mile run had an effect, but I’m not going to stop.

“It’s the best thing in my life at the moment. I was twitching there at the end and Barry should have had me. I got lucky there.”

O’Sullivan is looking to win his third Players Championship having previously triumphed in both 2018 and 2019.

In today’s final, the six-time world champion takes on John Higgins, who has only conceded one frame all tournament and swept past Kyren Wilson in the semis.

The 45-year-old Scot has 30 ranking tournament wins but this is his best ever performance at the Players Championship.

There is a £125,000 prize on the line for the winner, with O’Sullivan looking to improve his 37-30 head-to-head record against Higgins.

Players Championship final LIVE score

Best of 19 frames – afternoon session begins 1pm, evening session 7pm

LIVE: Ronnie O’Sullivan 0-5 John Higgins

Frame scores

Afternoon session: 18-64, 0-103 (92), 21-69 (68), 0-142 (142), 0-138 (138)

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s route to the final

First round: O’Sullivan 6-5 Ding Junhui

Quarter-finals: O’Sullivan 6-1 Jack Lisowski

Semi-finals: O’Sullivan 6-4 Barry Hawkins

John Higgins’ route to the final

First round: Higgins 6-0 Jordan Brown

Quarter-finals: Higgins 6-0 Mark Selby

Semi-finals: Higgins 6-1 Kyren Wilson

O’Sullivan’s Higgins praise

O’Sullivan was full of praise for Higgins after his quarter-final win over Mark Selby, who the Scot thrashed 6-0.

“I watched it. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t watch it in the end. It was granite. It was evil, evil,” said O’Sullivan.

“John just showed what a class player he is because obviously Selby is one of the best in the business at winning those types of matches.

“But Higgins, you could see it was almost like he didn’t want it to end. It was ridiculous snooker really.

“That’s probably the toughest match of snooker I’ve seen in my life. It was bordering on obscenely tough.

“Why would you want to be that tough? It was incredible snooker. It’s not easy to play. It’s okay playing defensive snooker, but you have to play it well.
“John and Selby play it better than anybody so if you can play it well, you play it.
“For me, it’s a waste of time trying to play that stuff because I do a lot of hard work 80 percent of the time, but then mess it up with one shot.

“They are very astute around that stuff. It was a real purist’s game of snooker.

“If he starts doing that to me, I’m going to be sitting in that chair quite a lot.”

Players Championship snooker results LIVE: Higgins leads Selby with O'Sullivan into semis

The Players Championship takes place this week – but Judd Trump’s chances of retaining his title and winning a 22nd ranking snooker event are over. The top 16 players in the rankings across the last year all take part in the tournament with Ronnie O’Sullivan looking for victory after losing last Sunday’s Welsh Open final. Express Sport provides live scores and results all the way up until the final.

Results earlier this week

Monday February 22

Evening session (7pm)

RESULT: Judd Trump 5-6 Stuart Bingham
RESULT: Kyren Wilson 6-1 Ryan Day

Tuesday February 23

Afternoon session (1pm)

RESULT: Jack Lisowski 6-3 Martin Gould
RESULT: Neil Robertson 6-1 Lu Ning

Evening session (7pm)

RESULT: Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-5 Ding Junhui
RESULT: Zhou Yuelong 5-6 Barry Hawkins

Wednesday February 24

Afternoon session (1pm)

RESULT: Mark Selby 6-4 Mark Williams
RESULT: Jordan Brown 0-6 John Higgins

Evening session (7pm) 

RESULT:  Stuart Bingham 2-6 Barry Hawkins (QF)

Thursday February 25 

Afternoon session (1pm)

RESULT: Neil Robertson 2-6 Kyren Wilson (QF)

Evening session (7pm)

RESULT: Jack Lisowski 1-6 Ronnie O’Sullivan (QF)

Tournament preview

Defending champion Judd Trump is looking to bounce back from a shock third-round defeat at the Welsh Open at this week’s Players Championship.

The world No 1 was beaten 4-2 by Hossein Vafaei at Celtic Manor in Newport to crash out early and complained afterwards about the venue and the table.

Trump beat Yan Bingtao 10-4 in the final of this event last year with O’Sullivan the victor in both of the previous years.

His younger rival Trump is seeking a third success at this tournament, which began in 2011 and is played between the top 16 players on a one-year ranking list.

The 11th ranking event of 2021, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby are among those who will be looking to thwart Trump in pursuit of the £125,000 prize.

Six-time world champion O’Sullivan suffered defeat in the final of the Welsh Open to Jordan Brown, the world No 81.

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