Higgins v Trump – Who Wins?

So it has come to this, a battle of youth vs experience for the title of the 2011 World Championship and it is hard to pick a winner given the form of this week to date…First things first, apologies for the lack of blog activity during the last day or so, unfortunately there just haven’t been enough hours in the day recently but there will be content to come from the tournament next week as I look back and reflect on the second week of this great championship.

Before yesterday I must admit I was of the view that the tournament had not quite caught fire yet but that was to change as semi-final Saturday delivered probably its most thrilling climax since 2007 when John Higgins and Mark Selby won a couple of brilliant matches.

First man through this time around was young Judd Trump and as he clenched his fist following the potting of frame ball, you could see just how much it meant to him. His opponent Ding Junhui did play very well himself but despite having chances in the last two frames, could not make the most of them and allowed Judd back to the table to take both.

While Judd’s match will be remembered for what happened on the table (indeed he described it as the best match that he has been involved in when looking at standard), the second semi-final between John Higgins and Mark Williams will more likely be remembered for what happened off it.

As John set about a break during frame 28 before the final mid-session interval, a heckler from the crowd suddenly stood and shouted out:

“”How do you swallow £300k John? You are a disgrace to snooker!”

And then as he was escorted out of the arena he shouted to the crowd:

“and you sit there and watch!”

It was something of a surreal moment as John walked around the table a couple of times to compose himself and to me looked visibly shaken by the incident for a few moments at least. The reaction from the crowd was quite moving as they booed the heckler and shouted for him to get out, before giving John a round of applause before he went on to clear the table and secure a 15-13 lead.

Having not performed during the morning session, losing it 6-2 and at times looking like a man with no eyes as he had described Stephen Hendry earlier in the season, Mark had left himself a lot to do against someone of John’s mental fortitude and the gap was to prove too far to make up as Higgins eventually won 17-14.

Mark was fairly philosophical in his press conference, saying that he could hardly grumble having ended the season how he has and finished at world number one, but he was of the view that this could have been his best chance of a third world title now gone.

John on the other hand was obviously relieved and stated that he had a great night’s sleep at 7-9 given how that crucial second session had unfolded. He was reluctant to talk about the heckler but did praise Mark highly for his words to him at the mid-session interval when he told him just to forget about it.

So who wins the final?

On paper you have to say that Higgins has to be the favourite, indeed for my money he is the best player in the world and if truth be told probably has been for at least the past two, probably three years. But this week he (as he admitted yesterday), has not been at the top of his game and has had to play some tough snooker to make it through.

Judd on the other hand is full of self-belief at the moment and looks to be getting better and better with each passing match. There are perhaps shades of those great UK Championship finals all those years ago between Steve Davis and a young Stephen Hendry and on those occasions it was the youngster who managed to get the better of the great champion.

They have two previous meetings, both won by Higgins at the 2008 Grand Prix and during the 2009 Premier League although with Judd’s rapid improvement recently I would struggle to read too much into those results.

It will certainly be a different test for Judd to what he has experienced so far but as he has shown all tournament, once he is in and potting there is little anybody can do. John’s safety game on the other hand is different class so it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top.

Your thoughts?