Marco Fu came from 4-1 down to beat John Higgins 9-4 in the final of the Coral Scottish Open in Glasgow.
Higgins had started the match brilliantly with three consecutive centuries, but he was then outplayed by his opponent and denied the chance to capture a title on home turf just a few miles from Wishaw.
Instead Hong Kong’s Fu won eight frames in a row to land the third world ranking title of his career and the £70,000 top prize as well as the inaugural Stephen Hendry Trophy, presented by snooker’s most successful ever player.
Victory caps off a magnificent week for Fu in which he has played the best snooker of his career. In winning 36 frames in seven matches, the 38-year-old made a remarkable 11 centuries and 21 more breaks over 50.
Fu started the current season poorly, failing to get beyond the last 32 of a ranking event until the recent UK Championship, where he reached the semi-finals. He has gone up another gear again this week to win his first ranking title since the 2013 Australian Open. It’s also his second ranking crown in Scotland having won the Grand Prix in Aberdeen in 2007.
Fu, who has now won nine of his 15 meetings with Higgins, jumps from 14th in the world to eighth.
World number three Higgins missed out on the chance to win a 29th career ranking title, which would have put him ahead of Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan on the all-time list and just seven behind Hendry’s record of 36.
Tied at 4-4 after the first session Fu won the opening frame tonight by building a 58-6 lead then surviving his opponent’s attempts to gain a snooker on the colours. That put Fu ahead for the first time in the match and he gathered momentum with a break of 89 to lead 6-4.
Fu looked set to take frame 11 until he missed a short range pot on the last red to a centre pocket. Higgins had the chance to strike a hammer blow by clearing the table, but he lost position on the pink then left a tough thin cut on the black, playing with the rest, in the jaws of a top corner. Fu slotted in the black to go three frames ahead.
Higgins had lost six frames in a row at that point, and he had to chance to stop the rot early in the next, but only made 24 before missing a red to a centre pocket. After a safety exchange, Fu rolled in a brilliant pot on a red along the length of the side cushion, setting him up for a run of 59 which proved enough to make it 8-4 at the interval.
Fu looked to be cruising over the winning line in frame 14 until he missed a red to a baulk corner on 60. Higgins had one last chance and made 27 before failing to gain position on the last red. When he accidentally knocked the pink in when trying to play safe his hopes were fading, and the handshake came when he left the green over a corner pocket.
Fu flanked by Stephen Hendry and Coral’s John Hill. Pic by Colin Poultney
“It feels unbelievable,” said Fu. “To beat John in Glasgow is one of the biggest wins of my career. It was a great occasion and I managed to play some good match snooker. It’s a dream come true. I was fearing the worst at 3-0 down because the way John was playing was very difficult to contain. I was guessing I was going to be 7-1 down after the first session, I would have even taken 6-2. I was over the moon at 4-4, those three frames I won from 4-1 down were the most important part of the match.
“My safety was helping me to get chances and I scored really well throughout the week. Before the UK Championship I worked on a few technical things with my coach Wayne Griffiths. My alignment was way off for potting balls so I had to correct that, as well as my cue action. I spent a lot of time practising but even going to York I wasn’t that confident. I managed to find some form during the UK and I was able to bring that into this tournament.
“It has been frustrating in my career to have only won two ranking titles. The way I score could have given me more success but I have always missed out in the semis or final of big tournaments. So it’s nice to win today and remind myself that I can do it under pressure. I’m really confident now going into the second half of the season. I’ll take a holiday now over Christmas then from the new year I’ll be getting ready for the Masters.”
Higgins said: “The shot which turned it against me was at 4-2 when there were two reds left and I should have taken the green and tried to move a red off the side cushion. But I played the brown and ended up missing the double on the red. That’s what was in my mind when I went back to my house after the first session. I played the wrong shot and it came back to haunt me.
“I still felt good at 4-4 because I couldn’t have played much better. Marco ground his way back into the game and played some good safety. I still fancied playing well tonight but Marco shut me out. I’ve got no complaints because he played superb snooker. He put me in some positions I couldn’t find my way out of. He has been the player of the week and a worthy winner.
“The fans were fantastic so I’m just gutted that I couldn’t make it close for them and create a great atmosphere. It would have been good to win a 29th ranking title but hopefully there will be time in the future to do that. I’ve had a great couple of months (winning the China Championship and Champion of Champions) so it will be a good Christmas then I’ll be ready for the Masters.”