Higgins holding no scars from dramatic Belfast loss: ‘It was Mark’s time to win’


John Higgins narrowly lost an epic Northern Ireland Open final to Mark Allen (Picture: WST)

John Higgins is already over his nail-biting defeat in the Northern Ireland Open final to Mark Allen and remembers the dramatic contest fondly thanks to the amazing atmosphere in Belfast.

The four-time world champion was edged out 9-8 by Allen in a memorable final at the Waterfront Hall, sending the Belfast crowd wild as they cheered on the local hero.

The Scot looked set to claim the trophy and upset the locals when he led 8-6, but it was a superb scrap from the Pistol who battled back to glory.

It looked a painful defeat but the Wizard of Wishaw says it was quickly forgotten and only memories of the incredible atmosphere in the final remain.

‘It would have been nice to win, of course it would have but it was forgot about going home on the ferry with the wife and the daughter the next day,’ he told Metro.co.uk.

‘I was a little bit disappointed but maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, it was Mark’s time to win.

‘I was maybe lucky getting through against Mark Williams [in the last 16], he missed a ball to beat me 4-0. I had the black at 8-7 [in the final], that was a big shot and I missed it, I never took my chance under the extreme pressure and Mark did so fair play to him.

‘The atmosphere was amazing, it was brilliant. I enjoyed it even better because obviously it was a wake up call, everything that’s happened in the last 18 months so I think those moments you enjoy even better now.’

Higgins breezed through the first round of the English Open on Monday, beating Zhao Jianbo 4-1 to set up a second round clash with Oliver Lines on Tuesday evening.

He is in great form at the moment, some of which he puts down to his incredible achievements in the gym over the last few months.

The 46-year-old looks a new man having lost close to four stone thanks to spin classes and he is delighted that he has turned his fitness regime around.

‘I always maybe thought I could last a wee bit longer, but there was a point at the World Championships where I couldn’t really get down on shots and I was thinking to myself, “your career might not be going that much longer, if it stayed like that.”’ John explained.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Seven

Higgins has lost nearly four stone since April (Picture: Getty Images)

‘It got something in my head and I’m going to try to stick to it until the end of my career. It doesn’t help you pot balls, but it should obviously try and give you a better chance.’

Asked whether it helps the mental side of the game and concentration, Higgins added: ‘Yeah. I could never say yeah or nay because I’d never done it before in my whole career.

‘It was only in the last maybe 10 years I was beginning to put more pounds on, look more like my dad, so no it feels better, aye.’

Having gone an entire career with little or no fitness work it seemed likely that the first few spin classes would have been pretty unpleasant.

‘Oh, torture,’ said Higgins. ‘I was wanting to be sick and everything, but once you get into the swing of it it’s better.

‘Aye just under four stone now, I’ll try and keep it going.’

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