John Higgins reached his first Crucible semi-final since 2011 with an emphatic 13-6 defeat of Kyren Wilson at the Betfred World Championship.
Higgins looked in for a tough battle early in the match, but with the score at 3-3, Wilson’s cue tip split, which damaged his chances. From that point Higgins looked in full control and at the top of his game.
The Wizard of Wishaw has won four world titles in all and took three between 2007 and 2011. He struggled to produce his best in Sheffield in the years that followed, but after an excellent season he is playing as well as ever. Five centuries and 20 more breaks over 50 in his three matches so far underline how well he is cueing.
Higgins, who turns 42 next month, will now meet Barry Hawkins or Stephen Maguire over 33 frames for a place in the final. World number six Higgins has previously played in seven Crucible semi-finals and won five of those.
Starting today’s final session 11-5 ahead, Higgins took the opening frame with a break of 61. He could have sealed victory in the next but missed the final yellow, allowing Kettering’s Wilson to pull one back. But Higgins soon clinched the result in frame 19 with a run of 59.
“It was a tough first session, I was lucky to come out 5-3 in front,” said Higgins, a winner of 28 ranking titles. “In the second session I felt as though I played well. At 11-5 you’ve got one foot in the semi final, but you’ve got to come back out and you feel the emotions, a little bit of nerves. Lucky for me I managed to finish the match before the mid-session break.
“I let Kyren go for his long ones, and I don’t thing he potted a long one in the whole first session. He was going for a lot and getting away with a few things, I was just trying to stay calm. He was desperately unlucky, it went 3-3 and he split his tip, so that’s obviously a big moment in the game.
“He loves to go for his shots and when you’re younger that’s what you should do. When you’re older you stop going for them because there’s a few more scars there.
“That one table set up, it’s the best place in the world to get out there and play. I can’t wait to come here tomorrow morning, I’m buzzing that back in the arena again.
“I think the nerves get more difficult, inside I’m more relaxed this year because I feel as though I’m playing ok. Selby is still the favourite, and the way Ding is playing against O’Sullivan, but you can’t discount Ronnie. I believe in myself and it’s a great feeling to have.”
Wilson, who also reached the quarter-finals last year, said: “I’ve come up against a very tough player. I was punished by a very good champion.
“I’m so annoyed with myself, honestly so frustrated. But it is another learning curve for me, I’m still young and I’ve learnt a lot from this one, probably more than last year’s tournament. I’ll be better prepared for next year.
“We are professional sportsmen, we should be able to adapt so I’m not going to use the tip as an excuse. My tip split at 3-3 so after the first session I put a new tip on and the rest was history.
“I’m normally bang on a tip straight away, but I used a spare that I had in my case and it was more or less bedded in straight away. I couldn’t understand why it was in my case and it was so perfect to go on my cue. As soon as I got out I realised why it was in my case, it was a terrible tip. It is something I’ve got to learn from and be better prepared for in case that sort of freak accident happens again.
“It is a completely different sound. The tip I had on before was more or less completely down to the ferrule, and it is a rock hard sound and I like a nice hard tip and this one just felt like a Fruit Pastille. And just playing with side it was very very difficult.
“I’m not in here to make the quarter finals I’m here to win the tournament. So until I do that I’ll never be happy.”