World Championship 2011: The Final So Far

So after all the qualifiers, all of the hype, we are into the final day of the 2011 World Championship and what a finish we have in prospect as Judd Trump leads John Higgins 10-7 overnight…

Final day began in a strange manner as news filtered through that snooker’s most famous commentator Ted Lowe had sadly passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 90. The occasion was marked out there in the arena ahead of the final by a poignant minute of applause during which his former colleagues such as Clive Everton, Phil Yates, John Virgo and Willie Thorne all entered the arena to pay their respects.

Following that however it was very much back to business as the two players were introduced to a lively crowd, Judd in particular receiving a tremendous reception further evidencing just how much the fans have taken to him during this last fortnight.

As was to be expected, the start was a nervy one for both players as both missed balls but it was Judd who settled slightly the quicker, breaks of 46 and 42 proving enough to give him the first two frames and an early advantage. He looked relaxed after the first frame as he looked up to his balcony and shared a joke with someone but the third frame proved to be another classic steal from Higgins this week as he played a tremendous snooker from which Judd fouled on four occasions before hitting a red on the fifth but leaving one on. This effectively gave John the frame and from there John would level the scores up at the interval with a break of 61.

Frame five was a continuation of this as John notched breaks of 51 and 64 to hit the front for the first time in the final, but little did we know at the time that this 64 would prove to be John’s highest break of the day and Judd responded brilliantly with a break of 102 in the next frame to again draw level.

The final two frames of the session where also to be shared as each managed to steal one having seen their opponent make the early running. Under normal circumstances I would say that the enormous slice of luck that came John’s way in frame seven on escaping from a snooker could have affected Judd but unlike most players I have seen he seems to have a unique ability to put such setbacks to the back of his mind and he duly responded to leave it 4-4 at the close of play.

Following the session I headed over to an Italian round the corner with the man behind the Snooker Island website and to our amusement who was to walk in barely 15 minutes after us but Judd Trump, decked out in shorts and t-shirt with half an hour to go before the resumption of play! Signing autographs as he left it was great to see him looking so relaxed and at ease and perhaps that is something that has helped him this week.

As the evening session began it was Higgins who initially looked the stronger, a break of 60 which included a tremendous positional shot on the blue having received a kick previously putting him into the lead before he earned the first opportunity in frame ten. At the time Shaun Murphy commented that it was worrying times for Trump fans but as Higgins missed on 45 he responded with some terrific pots to not only draw level again, but add the next two frames with breaks of 58 and 103 to lead 7-5 at the mid-session interval.

As has been the case all tournament, John did not look to be at his best but also as he has done all week, he managed to steal a couple of frames to pull back to 7-7, the 13th frame in particular being a heartbreaker for Judd as Higgins managed to fluke a snooker back having been in one himself, eventually taking it with a clearance of 31.

While he was stealing frames however, John was seemingly not able to get in and win one and it was Judd who took the final three of the day to earn a deserved overnight lead of 10-7.

Can he hang on? People are saying that he might bottle it but frankly I think that if he were going to crack, he would have done it long before now. He came through against an on-form Mark Selby having seen his lead eradicated in China before seeing off Neil Robertson having trailed 7-6 and missed two easy frame balls and also came back from behind to beat Ding Junhui here in the semi-finals. Having handled that I think that he can handle one last test.

Higgins should not be written off, indeed the way he played yesterday he cannot be unhappy to have come out of that 10-7 as I felt that his long game in particularly was costing him dear. With a success rate of just 48% to Judd’s 72%, John was not giving himself the first opportunity in frames while Judd was knocking them in seemingly for fun. If he is going to come back then he will have to score better.

But I think that Judd will hang on…