The 2021 Player’s Championship has already been a great tournament in the middle of one of the most entertaining seasons for a while. I don’t know if it’s just because of lockdown but I’ve found it much easier to follow the snooker this year than previous ones. It’s felt like the TV coverage across BBC, ITV and Eurosport has been more accessible. I’ve easily watched more snooker this season than football.
Returning to the 2021 Player’s Championship one and anticipating today’s final there are several aspects that fascinate me. Its O’Sullivan vs Higgins, two of the games greats but also two of the older players on the tour. It’s interesting alone that it’s the first Higgins O’Sullivan final for 16 years.
The other factor that makes the final interesting is the player’s consistency and times when it has lacked. We were recently treated to a very good Masters semi final of Higgins and O’ Sullivan which helps illustrate this.
Higgins has recently been playing close to the best, if not the best, snooker of his entire career. He played almost perfectly against a very good O’ Sullivan to reach the final but then struggled to reproduce his form in the final.
He’s dominated the Player’s Championship this tournament, his dropped frame to Wilson last night was the first frame he’d lost. His performance against Selby surely the best anybody has played against the Jester. Combine that with his victory over O’Sullivan in the Masters and it feels like this will be Higgins year. Yet as he showed in the Masters, he isn’t perfect every day.
O’Sullivan has displayed similar inconsistency in this tournament. He played almost perfect snooker against Liswoski, a player who many think is within touching distance of his first ranking final win. And yet when the Rocket came out against Hawkins he looked a very different player, Hawkins wasn’t playing well himself but Ronnie was worse and Hawkins managed to improve the fastest over the first session.
That makes this final such an interesting match up. Both players have recently shown they have the capabilities still to produce almost perfect performances, Higgins especially so. It will be fascinating to see which Higgins and O’Sullivan turn up.
The other area of interest is this Last of the Summer Wine period that the class of 92 are enjoying. This isn’t the same as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the tennis, the younger Trump is still the world number 1. However it is a sign that it’s possible for the very best players to contest finals for much longer than previously thought. That’s a credit to both Higgins and O’Sullivan but also ominous for some of the younger players hoping for a chance.
Perhaps that’s the greatest thing about the final today. Nobody in 1992 would have thought that we’d still be looking forward to a Higgins O’Sullivan final in a ranking event and anticipating such a high level of snooker.
It’s huge credit to Higgins, O’Sullivan and most likely Barry Hearn too, that we are. And next week we have Stephen Hendry, returning as Foggy to the Cleggy and Compo of Higgins and O’Sullivan.