John Higgins beat Stuart Bingham 10-7 in the final of the new Evergrande China Championship to bank £200,000, snooker’s biggest ever first prize for a tournament outside the UK.
A stunning finish of three centuries in the last three frames gave Higgins his biggest pay-day since capturing his fourth world title in 2011.
Scotland’s 41-year-old Higgins won his first trophy since last year’s International Championship, though this invitation title does not count towards his tally of 28 ranking crowns.
The world number six from Wishaw won four matches in Guangzhou, culminating in a superb display in a high quality final against Bingham which featured five centuries and nine more breaks over 50 in the 17 frames.
The contest started slowly, Higgins getting the better of the first three scrappy frames, before Bingham stormed back with runs of 102, 112 and 52 to make it 3-3. Higgins regained the lead in frame seven then made a trademark clearance of 65 to go 5-3 up, before two breaks of 50 from Bingham saw him trail by just one frame at the end of the first session.
Basildon’s Bingham, who was seeking his first title since winning the World Championship 18 months ago, won the opening frame of the evening session then made a break of 98 in the next to lead for the first time at 6-5. Higgins responded with 56 and 65 to win the next two, before Bingham’s 84 left the match in the balance at 7-7.
But Higgins once again underlined his status as one of snooker’s all-time greats with a stunning finish, firing runs of 134, 100 and 101 to cross the winning post.
“At 7-7 I was just hanging in there, Stuart was playing the better stuff and I was just scrapping away,” said Higgins. “I knew my form needed to come. It’s a dream come true to finish a match off like that with three centuries, especially for such a big prize and a big tournament. I’m definitely taking this trophy home!
“In recent matches I have sometimes been guilty of not having the correct mindset, but I was really zoned in tonight. Even when I went 6-5 down I stayed positive and kept concentrating on every ball.
“Time stands still for no one so all you can do is try to fight back as much as you can. This gives me great confidence because I don’t think I’ve ever finished a final like that, so it proves to me that I can still do it under extreme pressure. I’m really chuffed to bits.
“This is the first time I have been to Guangzhou, it’s a great city and I have really enjoyed it. I’m sure all the players will love coming here next year. Big thanks to Evergrande because they have put on a big tournament with a fantastic prize fund, it’s out of this world. Hopefully they’ve had good feedback this week from the players. The fans were brilliant, it was a great atmosphere tonight and hopefully this can build into a massive tournament.”
World number two Bingham, who earned £100,000, said: “It was a great match and he finished in style. I had a couple of chances to go 8-8 but I didn’t do much wrong and I was glad to be part of it. John is still a class act and a match for anyone. I feel as if my game is there and I felt comfortable out there.”
For the next three years, the Evergrande China Championship will be a world ranking event, contested by 128 players. Total prize money for the 2017 edition will be £700,000 with the winner’s cheque at £150,000.