English Open 2021 - Neil Robertson beats John Higgins in final-frame decider to take title
John Higgins and Neil Robertson did battle for glory in the final of the English Open at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. It went to a deciding frame and it was Robertson who got over the line to secure victory in thrilling fashion. Higgins had his chances but suffered the agony of defeat in the final frame three weeks on from his Northern Ireland Open loss
Watch the moment Robertson clinches English Open title in dramatic final
Neil Robertson overcame some ropey passages of play and a fightback from John Higgins to secure the English Open title in a dramatic final-frame decider.
The Australian suffered the disappointment of losing the final to Judd Trump in the deciding frame last year. Twelve months on, he was back at the Marshall Arena - this time in front of a packed crowd.
He was under pressure in the evening session, but found fluency late in the match to secure his 21st ranking title 9-8, and the Steve Davis Trophy for the first time.
For Higgins, it will be a bitter pill to swallow as he looked in command when ahead at 8-6, but he was beaten again - three weeks after losing in the final of the Northern Ireland Open to Mark Allen 9-8.
Robertson comfortably outscored Higgins, had a better pot success and safety stats, and after a struggle he came out on top in the only metric that matters: frames won.
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Ronnie O’Sullivan said in the Eurosport studio that because he was trailing heading into the final session, it was imperative Higgins made an aggressive start. He did precisely that, knocking in a tough green and difficult blue after opening reds to fashion a chance. It came as a surprise when he missed a red into the left middle with his break on 37.
The Scot shook his head as he trudged back to his seat, but he was handed a reprieve when Robertson missed the penultimate red. There was work to do for the four-time world champion with the final red welded to the pink, but he feathered it to put it into open play and knocked in the colours to strike first blood in the evening session.
Higgins’ play improved throughout the afternoon, which was a warning to Robertson who bossed the first session but only had a two-frame cushion to show for his dominance.
After seeing Higgins take the first of the evening, Robertson missed a long red by a wide margin and later in the frame was on the losing end of an 11-minute safety battle, while Higgins thrilled the crowd with a brilliant double.
The scoring wasn’t vintage, with no break over 40 in the opening two frames of the night, but the attack-minded snooker was enough to draw Higgins level.
Robertson’s potting was razor sharp for much of the afternoon, but under the pump from Higgins it appeared the pockets were a little bit smaller for the Australian. He kept himself in the hunt in the 11th as Higgins struggled to close out the frame, but made a mistake on the yellow and the Scot stepped in to move ahead for the first time in the final.
The Australian’s lead in the afternoon was built on positive, attacking play. He appeared scrambled in the face of Higgins’ charge. At the start of the 12th he played a passive safety to allow Higgins in. The Scot did not take advantage, but at the second time of asking Robertson ran out of position and attempted a bizarre plant which never looked on. It missed by a margin, but the drama was not done as they both missed chances on the green - before Higgins finally fell over the line to open a two-frame advantage.
'It wasn't a bottle thing' - O'Sullivan defends Higgins after final loss to Robertson
Robertson could have been forgiven for wilting in the face of the Higgins blitz, but he emerged from the interval to pounce on an error from his opponent.
Higgins rarely takes his foot off his opponent when he has them down, but he played a terrible positional shot and went in-off attempting to retrieve the situation. Robertson looked flustered before the interval, but he was decisive in his shot-selection and closed out the frame with a fluent break of 80.
Higgins looked disgusted after letting Robertson in in the previous frame. When presented with a chance of his own after Robertson missed a tough red down the right rail, he stepped in ruthlessly to pick through a tricky table - with a break of 55 moving him to within one frame of the winning post.
The Scot led Allen 8-6 in Belfast, and the nerves would have started as Robertson played with freedom - taking two frames on the spin, the latter with a brilliant century clearance to force a decider.
Robertson broke off in the decider last year and did not get another shot, as Trump won it with a century. There was no Trump ton on this occasion, and both had chances as the tension ramped up.
Higgins missed a massive chance when in the balls. He continually ran out of position and continually knocked in recovery pots. But he went to the well once too often, and a miss handed Robertson a chance he took to take his first title of the season, and first since getting married earlier in the year.
Celebrations in the Robertson household, but it will be a different mood in the Higgins camp.
Higgins: ‘I’ve not really got it at this level’
First session report - Robertson in charge after dominant display
The English Open final is shaping up to be a classic, as Neil Robertson holds a slender 5-3 lead over John Higgins after the opening session.
Robertson was the better of the two in the afternoon, dominating in all departments and scoring heavier on the back of bold, attacking play.
But Higgins is a fearsome competitor, and he kept a grip on Robertson to give himself a chance in the race to nine later in the evening - with all the action live on Eurosport, the Eurosport app and discovery+ from 18:45 GMT.
Higgins should arguably have been the fresher, given Robertson’s semi-final finished late on Saturday evening. But the Scot did not look comfortable early, as he missed a long red by a distance and a tight cut back into the right corner in the opener. His opponent stepped in with a break of 57 to secure the frame.
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The Scot took time to settle in his semi-final win over Ronnie O'Sullivan, and it was a similar scenario against Robertson. He went in-off in the second and later in the frame missed a long red, the kind of pot he had been knocking in for fun earlier in the week. Robertson was bogged down early on in his semi-final with Mark King. He came out in the final with an attacking mindset, and punished Higgins' lapses to take a two-frame lead.
Higgins has never been fazed by finding himself under pressure, and he showed his class with a sensational break of 90 to get on the board in the third frame. He knocked in a tough red to get in, knowing he would have been leaving a chance for Robertson had he missed. The table was not easy, but Higgins appeared to relish the intricate nature of the break as he picked off red after red to secure a foothold.
Robertson was left sitting in his chair for 10 minutes, but he arguably prefers that to losing a dour frame following a lengthy exchange. He proved that with a stunning opening red to get going in the fourth. It came as a surprise when he broke down on 48; a similar comment applied when Higgins - the king of the counterattack - missed the final red.
It felt like an important steal, but Robertson had 15 minutes to recompose - and he came out and secured the fifth in a single visit - a stunning clearance of 140.
'Immaculate' - Robertson with 'spectacular' break of 140 in English Open final
The sixth frame was a cagey affair lasting 37 minutes, but Robertson attacked whenever presented with a chance and he crafted enough openings to take it and move 4-2 in front - guaranteeing himself at least a share of the spoils after the first session.
Higgins took a tense seventh to stop Robertson’s charge, but the Australian attacked again in the eighth and a break of 123 secured him a lead going into the evening as he bids to go one better than in last year’s event.
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Stream the final of the English Open live and on demand on discovery+.