- Category : Snooker Player
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 2
John Higgins, MBE (born 18 May 1975) is a Scottish professional snooker player. With four world titles in all (1998, 2007, 2009, 2011) he is fifth overall in the modern era, behind Stephen Hendry (7), Steve Davis (6), Ray Reardon (6) and Ronnie O'Sullivan (5). To date, he has won a total of 25 ranking titles and compiled 500 competitive century breaks, including seven maximum 147 breaks. Since the 1996/1997 season he has never dropped below 11th in the world rankings.
Turning professional in 1992, by the 1994/1995 season he was the first teenager to win three ranking events in a season. In just his third season he had climbed to number 11 in the rankings. In the 1996 UK Championship he lost 10–9 in the final to the then six time World Champion Hendry. Two years later, after a then-tournament record 14 centuries, he won his first World Championship by beating defending champion Ken Doherty 18–12. The win saw him ranked World Number 1 for the first time, ending the eight-year reign of Hendry. He added the UK Championship and the Masters the following season to become just the third player after Davis and Hendry to hold the Triple Crown of World, UK and Masters titles simultaneously.
In contrast to the prior dominance of Hendry or Davis, Higgins held the No.1 spot for just 2 years; it was not until 2007 that Higgins regained it from a briefly returning Hendry, with the interim period seeing it held twice each by Mark Williams and Ronnie O'Sullivan. The return to No.1 came after winning his second world title nine years after the first, beating Mark Selby 18–13. This was the longest gap since the ten years it took namesake Alex Higgins (1972–1982). A third World Championship followed two years later with an 18–9 victory over Shaun Murphy, meaning Higgins became the ninth player to win the title three or more times.
Having ended the 2009/2010 season by regaining the No.1 for the third time in his career, Higgins was the target of tabloid newspaper sting resulting in a 6-month ban from snooker. An investigation found he had failed to report, and given the impression of agreeing with, their invitation to breach the sport's betting rules. Higgins bounced back upon his return midway through the following season, winning a third UK Championship and regaining the No.1 spot for a fourth time. After the death of his father, Higgins won an emotional fourth World Championship title with an 18–15 win over Judd Trump.
Higgins was born in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire. He turned professional in 1992 and won his first tournament in 1994 when he defeated Dave Harold 9–6 in the final of the Grand Prix. The British and International Open titles followed in 1995, making him the first teenager to win three ranking events in a season (1994/95). In the UK Championship final in 1996, he recovered from 4–8 down against Stephen Hendry to lead 9–8, only to lose 9–10.
In 1998, Higgins won his first World Championship, beating Jason Ferguson, Anthony Hamilton, John Parrott and Ronnie O'Sullivan, before overcoming defending champion Ken Doherty 18–12 in the final. In the process, he made a then-record of 14 centuries in a tournament (Stephen Hendry later eclipsed this milestone at the World Championship in 2002 with 16 centuries). His success meant he became World no. 1 for the first time in his career, bringing Stephen Hendry's eight-year tenure to an end.
After the first world title
During the 1998/99 season, Higgins won the UK Championship and Masters with 10–6 and 10–8 defeats of Matthew Stevens and Ken Doherty, respectively, to become only the third player after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry to hold the World, UK and Masters titles simultaneously (Mark Williams later joined this elite group). In addition, he is one of just five players to have claimed both the World and UK Championship in the same calendar year (1998); the others are Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Parrott and Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Higgins remained as World no. 1 for two years, when Mark Williams replaced him at the top of the rankings at the close of the 1999/00 season. Higgins and Williams met in the Grand Prix final in 1999, where Higgins came from 2–6 down to claim a 9–8 victory; the World Championship semi-final in 2000, where Higgins was defeated 15–17 after surrendering a 14–10 advantage in the final session; and the UK Championship final in 2000 – Higgins winning by a margin of 10–4 to earn his second UK title.
He reached the World Championship final in 2001, but lost 14–18 to Ronnie O'Sullivan. At the beginning of the 2001/02 season, Higgins became the first player to win the opening three tournaments of a season: the Champions Cup, Scottish Masters (both invitational events), and the British Open. Higgins then failed to win a major title until his fourth British Open triumph in 2004.
In the Grand Prix final in 2005, Higgins beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 9–2. In doing so, he became the first player to record four consecutive centuries in a ranking tournament, with breaks of 103, 104, 138 and 128 in frames 7 to 10. Higgins scored 494 points without reply, which was then a record (Ding Junhui managed 495 points against Stephen Hendry in the Premier League in 2007). Higgins and O'Sullivan also contested the Masters finals in 2005 and 2006. Higgins was beaten 3–10 in 2005. In 2006, he lost the first three frames, but won the next five to establish a lead after the first session. O'Sullivan levelled in the evening, and the match went to a deciding frame. On a 60 break, O'Sullivan missed a red to a baulk pocket, and Higgins made a clearance of 64 to win 10–9 to claim the title for the second time.
Second and third world titles
In the World Championship in 2007, Higgins beat Michael Holt, Fergal O'Brien, Ronnie O'Sullivan, and Stephen Maguire en route to the final. His break of 122 in the 29th frame of his semi-final against Maguire, on recovering from a deficit of 10–14 in the final session to prevail 17–15, was the 1,000th century to be made at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield since the World Championship was first staged there in 1977. In the final, Higgins held a 12–4 advantage over Mark Selby overnight, but Selby reduced his arrears to a single frame on day two. However, at 14–13, Higgins rediscovered his form to win four consecutive frames to clinch the match 18–13 to secure his second World title at 12:54 a.m., the latest finish to a World final (equalled when Neil Robertson beat Graeme Dott in 2010); and nine years after his first title – the longest time span between successes since Alex Higgins (1972, 1982), and the longest at The Crucible. He regained World no. 1 status.
As World Champion, Higgins reached the quarter-final stages in only the Welsh and China Open tournaments. He helped to establish, and actively promoted, the World Series of Snooker – a tour intended to bring snooker to new venues outside the traditional United Kingdom and recently developed Far East markets. He won the inaugural event in St. Helier, Jersey, in June 2008, beating Mark Selby 6–3 in the final. Higgins also devised a new players’ union with his manager Pat Mooney, called The Snooker Players Association. He won the Grand Prix for the fourth time in 2008, beating Ryan Day 9–7 in the final in Glasgow – his first ranking tournament win on home soil.
In the World Championship in 2009, Higgins beat Michael Holt 10–5 in round one. His second-round and quarter-final matches both went the full distance of 25 frames, with Higgins overcoming 10–12 and 11–12 deficits against Jamie Cope and Mark Selby, respectively, to win 13–12. He established a 13–3 lead in the semi-final against Mark Allen and progressed 17–13 – withstanding a comeback by the Northern Irishman. Higgins recorded an 18–9 victory over Shaun Murphy in the final to become the ninth player to win the World title three or more times after Joe Davis, Fred Davis, John Pulman, John Spencer, Ray Reardon, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan. He joined Steve Davis, Hendry and O'Sullivan as the only players to have lifted the trophy three or more times at The Crucible. At two weeks before his 34th birthday, Higgins became the oldest player to triumph since Dennis Taylor in 1985, who was 36 years of age.
In the 2009/10 season, as reigning World Champion, he lost 5–6 on the black ball to Neil Robertson in the semi-final of the Grand Prix; and 8–10 to Ding Junhui in the final of the UK Championship, after surviving a comeback by Ronnie O'Sullivan in the semi-final when leading 8–2, to advance 9–8 the previous evening. he also defeated Neil Robertson 9–8 during the tournament. He captured the Welsh Open title by defeating Allister Carter 9–4 in the final, and ended the season as World no. 1 despite an 11–13 loss to Steve Davis in round two of the World Championship.
Match-fixing allegations and fourth world title
On 2 May 2010, Higgins and his manager, Pat Mooney, a World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) board member, were the subject of match-fixing allegations after being filmed in a sting operation conducted by the News of the World newspaper. An undercover News of the World team, led by Mazher Mahmood, posing as promoters, met with Higgins and his manager on 30 April, in a hotel room in Kiev, Ukraine, under the pretence of organising a series of events linked to the World Series of Snooker. The newspaper alleged that Higgins and Mooney had agreed to lose four frames in four separate tournaments in exchange for a €300,000 total payment, and further discussed the mechanics of how to fix a frame, which tournaments and opponents to choose, and how to transfer the money to Higgins. Higgins was immediately suspended from the game and Mooney resigned from his position on the WPBSA board. Higgins issued a statement on the same day denying he had ever been involved in match-fixing, and explained that he decided to "play along" out of fear for his safety, suspecting the involvement of the Russian Mafia.
A full investigation was conducted into the allegations by David Douglas – a former Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent, and head of the WPBSA's disciplinary committee. The independent tribunal that followed on 7–8 September, hosted by Sports Resolutions (UK) and chaired by Ian Mill QC, concurred that the WPBSA was right to conclude that Higgins had truthfully accounted for his words and actions and to withdraw the more serious charges of match-fixing, but found him guilty of 'giving the impression' he would breach betting rules, and of failing to report the approach made by the News of the World. Higgins received a six-month ban, backdated to the start of his suspension period, and was fined £75,000.
Return to snooker
Higgins returned to professional competition on 12 November 2010 in the Ruhr Championship – European Players Tour Championship (EPTC) event five in Hamm, Germany, and went on to win the tournament beating Shaun Murphy 4–2 in the final. His winning streak continued in the Prague Classic (EPTC6) in Prague, Czech Republic, where he reached the final again, but lost 3–4 to Michael Holt.
In the UK Championship, his first tournament on British soil since his return, he reached his third final in succession. He fought back from 2–7 and 5–9 down against Mark Williams, and from 7–9 after trailing 0–61, and needing a snooker to level the match. He made a 68 break in the decider, and sealed a 10–9 victory with a double on the brown. In securing his third UK title, Higgins became only the fourth player after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan, to win the second biggest ranking tournament in snooker three or more times. As a result of his progress in those three events, where he won 18 out of 19 matches, Higgins earned sufficient points to regain his position as World no. 1 under the new two-year rolling ranking system after having slipped to third by missing the start of the 2010/2011 season.
Higgins lost in the first round of the Masters 4–6 against Graeme Dottand withdrew from the German Masters after defeating Robert Milkins 5–3 in round one, to return home due to the deteriorating health of his father, who subsequently died after a long battle against cancer. A little over two weeks later, Higgins successfully defended his Welsh Open title by beating Stephen Maguire 9–6 in the final – dedicating victory to his late father. Higgins won the Hainan Classic, defeating Jamie Cope in the final. Higgins reached the quarter-final of the China Open, where he lost 2–5 against Shaun Murphy. Higgins' next tournament was the Scottish Professional Championship, where he defeated Anthony McGill 6–1 in the final.
In the World Championship, Higgins defeated Stephen Lee 10–5 in the first round, Rory McLeod 13–7 in the second round and Ronnie O'Sullivan 13–10 in the quarter-finals. On the way to a 17–14 victory over Mark Williams in the semi-finals, Higgins was heckled by an audience member who shouted out, "How do you swallow that three hundred thousand, John? ... You're a disgrace to snooker." Higgins went on to defeat Judd Trump 18–15 in the final to win his fourth world title, which prompted Steve Davis to comment "I think John Higgins is the best snooker player I've ever seen in my life". Despite the victory, Higgins lost the world number one ranking to Mark Williams.
Higgins had a poor 2011/2012 season, as he failed to reach the semi-finals of any of the ranking events, although he did lose at this stage in the Masters 4–6 to Shaun Murphy. Before the start of his World Championship defence, Higgins admitted his performance levels had not been good enough and that he had not been trying hard enough, only managing one or two days of practice a week. In the first round of the tournament Higgins came from 6–8 down to defeat Liang Wenbo 10–9, and then played Stephen Hendry for the first time in the World Championship, but was thrashed 13–4, with Higgins calling it the worst he had ever played at the Crucible. Higgins finished the season ranked world number five.
The high point of Higgins's 2012/2013 season came when he won his 25th ranking title at the 2012 Shanghai Masters, after coming back from 2–7 down to beat Judd Trump 10–9 in the final. Higgins also compiled two competitive 147 maximum breaks during the season, the 6th and 7th of his career, one in the final of the 2012 Shanghai Masters and the other in his second-round match at the 2012 UK Championship. However, the season overall was another disappointing one for Higgins, who reached only one other semi-final of a ranking event, the 2013 World Open, which he lost 2–6 to Mark Allen. Higgins exited the 2013 World Snooker Championship in the first round, losing 6–10 to Mark Davis. Afterward, he admitted that doubts about whether he could remain at the pinnacle of the sport had affected his form.
Higgins married Denise in 2000; they have three children together: sons Pierce and Oliver, and daughter Claudia. He is a dedicated supporter of Celtic FC and frequently attends the team's matches. He enjoys playing poker. He also follows English club Everton.
He was escorted off a plane for being drunk in 2006 after losing the Malta Cup final to Ken Doherty, but became teetotal in preparation for the 2007 World Championship, which he went on to win
Higgins was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.
In January 2010, Higgins appeared on the BBC's Celebrity Mastermind, answering questions on his specialist subject Dallas. He finished third equal.
In February 2010, Higgins and his wife Denise appeared on ITV's Mr. and Mrs. and reached the final after answering 9 questions correctly out of 9 to win £30,000. They donated the money to The Dalziel Centre – a day hospice for cancer patients, based at Strathclyde Hospital in Motherwell, of which Higgins became a patron after they cared for his terminally ill father.