Despite the agony of losing his third final in a row on Sunday evening, John Higgins was magnanimous in defeat to Judd Trump.
The Wizard of Wishaw made a fast start in the Champion of Champions final, winning the first three frames. Trump soon built up a head of steam, however, with the world number two claiming five frames in a row before Higgins pulled one back at the end of a tense afternoon session.
Come the evening, Trump found himself in imperious form. He won the last five frames on the bounce to seal an emphatic 10-4 victory, winning the Champion of Champions trophy for the first time and picking up the £150,000 prize money.
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Having lost the final of the Northern Ireland Open to Mark Allen in October, then the final of the English Open to Neil Robertson earlier this month, Higgins has suffered more than his fair share of disappointment recently. Nonetheless, he was full of praise for his opponent after the match and admitted that he was simply “too good” on the night.
“I thought Judd was awesome,” he told ITV. “If I’m being hyper-critical, when I went 3-1 in front I had a couple of chances that you’ve got to really capitalise on against someone as good as Judd, and I went walkabout for about three or four frames.
“Then Judd just grew and grew in strength, he just blitzed me tonight. Far too good.”
Higgins had a much harder time in the semi-finals, coming from behind to beat Yan Bingtao 6-5 in an epic battle while Trump breezed past Kyren Wilson 6-0. When it was put to him that fatigue may have been a factor in his defeat, he disagreed.
“No, I felt great,” he said. “I got off to a great start but I missed a couple and it all went pear-shaped.
“I’d like to say a special mention to the Bolton crowd. For the whole week, the atmosphere they’ve created, it’s been one of the best weeks I’ve had as a snooker professional, so every credit to them, they were brilliant.”
Reflecting on getting to three finals on the bounce, Higgins said: “It’s obviously an achievement, but you obviously want to win events and I’ve lost three now on the trot.
“It’s not a great feeling but I can hold my hands up and say I’ve lost to three unbelievable champions. Judd is top of the tree, he was amazing.”
Trump was equally complimentary about Higgins after the match, crediting his opponent as a huge influence on his career. “John’s been amazing all season. I’ve been watching him at home getting to every final, wishing I was here,” he said.
“I think John was in control early on and then missed one or two he wouldn’t normally miss, probably down to the late finish yesterday [after his semi-final against Bingtao].
Any win against John is incredible because he’s someone I always admired growing up. Any win against him is special. There have been times when I was first coming through when I’ve been 4-0, 7-2 up, and every time he comes back and beats me.
“But it’s put me in the position I am today. Any game against him is incredible for me. I love playing him, I still learn from him and I’ve got the utmost respect for John.”
Trump also had a word for his critics as he celebrated his first Champion of Champions title. “It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to get this one under my belt,” he said. “[I was] so excited to play in a final, it felt like I’d been on a drought. Everyone kept saying I hadn’t won a tournament for a while.
“To get this one under my belt early in the season, hopefully I can take some momentum from here. Everyone seems to say I only win little events so I wonder if this classes as a big one.”
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