GLASGOW // The double world champion John Higgins delighted his watching family and Scottish snooker fans by winning his first ranking event in Scotland when beating Welshman Ryan Day 9-7 in the final of the Royal London Watches Grand Prix. Higgins, who lives in Wishaw, just 14 miles away from the Glasgow Exhibition Centre, where the event was held for the first time, captured his first ranking title since winning the world championship for the second time at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 17 months ago.
Reward for the 33-year-old Scot was a cheque for £75,000 (Dh477,447). When asked what gives him the hunger for more success, Higgins insisted he is not ready to sit back on his laurels. "I suppose in a way, it's vanity. A few years ago people talked about the big four of myself, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams. "Now there are a lot of great new players and people say the big four are Ronnie, Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy.
"I still think I'm good enough to be in that group and I hope people will think of me that way now. It's not nice when you fall away and people don't expect you to win titles any more. "I'm still only playing well in patches but winning one of the big events should give me the confidence to go on and play better. My aim now is to go and win another one." Day was down 7-2 at one stage but bounced back to 7-6 and then 8-7. Higgins, though, had that huge five-frame cushion to protect and in the end it became too big a handicap for the Welshman to wipe out.
Defeat for the 28-year-old from Pontycymmer was his third in a ranking event final, though a £35,000 runner-up prize and a leap to third place in the latest provisional world rankings provided some form of consolation. Higgins had a miserable 2007/08 campaign by his standards, failing to reach a ranking event semi-final. He even admitted that his Crucible triumph in May 2007 had simply "papered over the cracks" of a loss of form stretching back nearly three years.
He stood precariously in 14th place in the provisional rankings going into this season and conceded that his first priority was to ensure top-16 status. // World Cuo @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org