China Championship 2018

Higgins Sets Up Hawkins Final

John Higgins beat Gary Wilson 6-2 to reach the final of the ManBetX Welsh Open, continuing his bid to become the first player to win the title five times.

Wizard of Wishaw Higgins will face Barry Hawkins over 17 frames in Cardiff on Sunday with the winner to collect £70,000 and the Ray Reardon Trophy. Higgins is now into the 47th ranking final of his career – one more than Ronnie O’Sullivan – and he is currently tied with O’Sullivan on four Welsh Open crowns.

The 42-year-old Scot is looking for his second ranking title of the season, having won the Indian Open in September, and 30th of his career, which would leave him just two behind O’Sullivan and six behind Stephen Hendry on the all-time list.

It was a scrappy start to the match tonight with neither player able to make a break over 50 in the first four frames. World number five Higgins led 2-1 and had a chance to clear in the fourth but missed the final pink to a top corner when ten points ahead. Wilson’s attempted long pot also missed its target and Higgins clipped in an excellent long pink to go 3-1 ahead.

Wallsend’s Wilson, appearing in a ranking event semi-final for only the second time in his career, pulled one back after the interval with a run of 61 and the world number 51 had first scoring chance in frame six but ran out of position on 35. Higgins replied with a 99 clearance which included a superb planted red to a centre pocket early in the break.

That proved the key moment as Higgins built momentum, dominating frame seven to lead 5-2 then finishing the job with a 106 in the eighth.

“I’m just delighted to be through to the final,” said Higgins, who won the Welsh Open in 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2015. “I was feeling the pressure tonight because I knew it was a good chance to get to the final, I had to play on Gary’s inexperience a bit. It was similar to Barry’s game earlier against Noppon in that you’re expected to win. I’m sure it will be a good final because Barry is hitting the ball well and I’m doing the same.

“In any sport you very rarely get great semi-finals because it’s all about keeping your nerve, getting over the line and trying to get to the final so you can enjoy the occasion. It would be brilliant to win this for a fifth time. I’m proud of myself that I’m still in there battling having played my first final in this event in 1995.

“I know what Barry can do, he knows what I can do and I think we’ll just relax and play the table. Getting to 30 ranking titles will be in the back of my mind. I just hope I do myself justice tomorrow and make it a good occasion.”

The final starts at 1pm on Sunday, with eight frames played in the afternoon and then the remainder from 7pm.