Trump predicts 'epic' Crucible final against Higgins

Snooker
Trump predicts 'epic' Crucible final against Higgins

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Four-time champion John Higgins will play Judd Trump in the World Championship final, in a repeat of their 2011 meeting.

Higgins, 43, has been runner-up for the past two years and progressed on Saturday by beating David Gilbert 17-16 in a thrilling semi-final.

Trump, 29, was beaten by Higgins eight years ago and made it through after beating qualifier Gary Wilson 17-11.

The best-of-35 final begins on Sunday at 14:00 BST and concludes on Monday.

All four sessions from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield will be shown live on BBC TV and online, with a record 500,000 on offer for the winner.

"Me or John haven't been the best players this week but we've just managed to dig in when we needed to and just get over the line," said Trump.

"We're both very tired - it's mentally draining. I watched John earlier and he was a bit emotional getting back to the final. To be back in the final against him eight years on, it's going to be an epic."

BBC analyst Alan McManus, a three-time Crucible semi-finalist, said the outcome of the final was "difficult to predict".

"I think we're going to get both of them trying to outsmart one another," he said. "I think the scoring will be marginally higher than the semis, it's going to be awesome."

Scot Higgins was in poor form for large periods of his contest with Gilbert. But he overturned deficits of 8-3, 10-6 and 14-11, taking the last two frames with breaks of 139 and 55 to advance.

Higgins had to draw on all of his experience to claw back Gilbert's advantage and a break of 96, following a rare double re-rack, moved him ahead in the match for the first time at 15-14.

I came here with no expectations but I am absolutely gutted to lose

Englishman Gilbert, appearing at this stage for the first time at the age of 37, dug deep with a 78 to bring the score back level before going ahead after a 40-minute 31st frame.

Higgins forced a decider with a total clearance of 139, then capitalised on a missed black by Gilbert to make an ultimately match-deciding 55 break.

"I don't know how I got through," said Higgins. "I apologised to David because I brought him down to my level. I was very poor and he let me off the hook in the first three sessions. He should have been 15-9 or 16-8 ahead. I was over the moon to be only 13-11 behind.

"My concentration was wavering. I was playing shots and thinking, 'What did I just do there?' I could have really thrown the towel in during the first three sessions, I was getting so annoyed with myself, but wanted to just try and hang in."

Gilbert was working as a farmer with his dad as recently as 2014 and was a 100-1 outside shot to win the title this year.

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In an emotional post match news conference, he said: "I loved every minute of it. I came here with no expectations but I am absolutely gutted to lose. It would have been incredible to reach a world final.

"I have never won anything, I have come close but this is the best couple of weeks I have had in my snooker career by a mile. It might be the closest I will come to winning the World Championship."

Reaching the final of snooker's showpiece event caps an outstanding turnaround for Higgins, who was at such a low point in December that he hinted at retirement at the end of the season because of a lack of motivation.

In a season containing 20 ranking and four non-ranking events, Higgins has failed to win any. "I was at a low ebb at Christmas time, the worst I have been since playing the game," said Higgins after Saturday's win.

"That is forgotten about. Getting out of the house and having a purpose to get up on a morning and practising helped with the results."

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His performance in the second session against Gilbert, in which he missed the simplest of pots and produced loose positional play, was so dreadful that six-time world champion Steve Davis said it was "ridiculous" and that he had "never seen anything quite like it".

But he still somehow managed to rejuvenate himself in the latter part of the match and eventually showed his class and how good he can be under pressure, making a tournament-high 143 break as well as 139 in the penultimate frame.

"I can't really explain it," added Higgins. "I thought it was such a high-quality final session at the semi-final stage. It was a great game."

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Trump is widely regarded as one of the best players never to have won the World Championship. The only time he has reached the final was almost a decade ago when he lost to Higgins, coming agonisingly close to lifting the biggest trophy in the sport with his all-out attacking play, which he himself labelled "naughty snooker".

He is now a more mature, all-round player and came into the tournament as one of the favourites after demolishing world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan in January's Masters and winning two ranking events.

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