Grand Prix 2009: Higgins wins clash of the titans

John Higgins is through to the last eight of the Grand Prix following a nervy 5-4 victory over old rival Ronnie O’Sullivan this afternoon. Joining him in the hat for the quarter-final draw will be Northern Irishman Mark Allen who defeated Jamie Cope over on table two…

Click here to see how the results have affected the provisional rankings.

Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-5 John Higgins

131(131)-0, 14-69(38,31), 12-62(60), 64(46)-25, 71(65)-62(58), 57(57)-69(37,32c), 75(67)-0, 56(50)-58, 0-100(94)

Defending champion John Higgins gained swift revenge for his 6-1 hammering at the hands of Ronnie O’Sullivan out in Shanghai last month by edging an entertaining match 5-4 today.

It was O’Sullivan who made the stronger start to the match, capitalising on a missed red from Higgins by knocking in a near flawless run of 131, the 576th century break of his career. While he needed a second bite at the cherry in frame two though, Higgins was able to quickly bring himself level before a break of 60 took him into the lead at 2-1.

His lead would be shortlived however and as Ronnie led 3-2 and 4-3, it looked like a second defeat in as many tournaments for Higgins against the world number one. As he has indicated recently though, Ronnie is not at the top of his game at the moment and two very surprising misses when in with a chance to seal the match in frame eight would ultimately prove to be very costly. Not only was Higgins able to bounce back and take him to a decider, but following another miss from O’Sullivan in frame nine he was able to step in with a break of 94 and keep his bid for a record fifth Grand Prix title alive.

Any win against Ronnie is always a good one and John will have been pleased to come through today when he looked to be in deep trouble early on. As well as keeping his title defence on track, this also gives John a chance to stretch out his lead at the top of the provisional rankings which Ronnie had narrowed considerably with his victory in Shanghai.

For Ronnie he will be disappointed to lose but if his comments after his first round win over Jamie Burnett are anything to go by, not too surprised. With a long break now until his next ranking event showing at the UK Championship at Telford, it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Jamie Cope 3-5 Mark Allen

66(39)-1, 0-81(42,39), 34(33)-79(44), 80(80)-42(38), 75(35,38)-26, 12-64(51), 56(55)-60(60c), 33-57

Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen ended the challenge of 2006 Grand Prix finalist Jamie Cope today in an error-strewn match.

Having shared the opening two frames in no time, almost all of the following frames proved to be tight affairs in which both players certainly had their chances. As the pair moved to 3-3 it looked like it would be Cope who would seize control of the match as a break of 55 left him on the brink of going one up with two to play. A straightforward miss on the pink however turned the frame upside down and Mark stepped in to clear with 60 before himself securing the win in the next frame.

That is now two matches in a row for Mark where he has not played near his best but importantly he has managed to come through both of them and progress to the quarter-finals. When looking at his inconsistent record it is a good sign that he has been able to do so and could be a quality that if maintained, could help him to push on into the top eight of the rankings.