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Higgins returns triumphant

16 Nov 10 10:22
The three-time world champion made a successful return to the snooker scene with a win at the Euro Tour Players Championship. There are less than three weeks until the UK Snooker Championship so has Higgins come back at just the right time?

A little over six months since John Higgins' life was turned upside down amid allegations of match fixing, the talented Scot returned to action in the Euro Tour Players Championship in Germany and duly left the city of Hamm as a champion once more.

Higgins was playing in his first event since April and was merely hoping to blow away a few cobwebs, but the old saying "Form is temporary, but class is permanent" may never have been more appropriate as the 35-year-old eased to a 4-2 victory over Shaun Murphy in Sunday's final.

The three time World Champion won a total of seven matches during the tournament including a 4-1 semi-final victory over fellow Scot Graeme Dott, but it was his first match against Joe Jogia that proved his toughest assignment of the week.

"I just came here hoping to get a few matches under my belt, so I'm delighted to win it. The first match was the hardest and that was the worst I played, Joe had chances to beat me, but after that I settled down and felt a lot better.

"Winning here gives me some confidence, but there's a long way to go, I would have felt that whatever happened here. It has no real bearing on the rest of the season." said Higgins.

The 35-year-old opened the final with a superb break of 132 and then went further ahead with a run of 66, however Murphy hit back winning the next two frames to level the match at the interval. The break obviously came at the right time and after two knocks of 95 and 53 the trophy and 2,000 ranking points were in the bag.

The victory moved Higgins up a place to number three in the world and must make him a live threat again to land a fourth World Title at the Crucible Theatre early next year for which he can be backed at 12.0 on Betfair. Ahead of that he trades at 8.0 in a developing market to win the UK Championship.

Runner-up Murphy certainly wasn't disgraced and will take heart from his recent efforts in both this and the Premier League from which he has all but qualified for the play-off stages.

Himself a winner of snooker's major prize in 2005, the 28-year-old from Harlow is currently available at ]12.0] to back for the UK Championship and will no doubt have his supporters at those odds.

Ronnie O'Sullivan remains market leader for both tournaments - 3.5 for the UK and 5.1 for the 2011 World Snooker Championship at 5.1. Reigning world champion Neil Robertson is on offer at 9.4 to retain his crown, although no first time winner has ever successfully pulled off that feat. Robertson is 7.0 to win in Telford.

Mark Selby, otherwise known as the Jester from Leicester, looks attractively priced at 9.8 to win the Worlds and would be my idea of the most likely winner at this stage. At just 23 years of age he made it to the final at Sheffield in 2007, losing out to the vastly more experienced Higgins 18-13, but showed enough on that occasion to suggest his day would come.

Final thoughts though must rest with Higgins, at a time when Snooker has been struggling in many departments it can only be good for the game that a player of his stature has emerged from a period of his life he'll want to forget with his game in good shape and I look forward to his presence on the green baize for the foreseeable future.

By Dean Goddard

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