Hello everyone, Lee Jackson here reporting to you from the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes ahead of the 2021 BetVictor English Open final. Today’s final consists of two icons of the game with a staggering 51 ranking event titles between the pair combined, with both having a taste of what it is like to be a Triple Crown champion. ‘The Wizard of Wishaw’, John Higgins will be looking to secure another ranking event title and to reward his good form this season. On the contrary, ‘The Thunder from Down Under’, Neil Robertson will be looking to lift his first ever English Open title after the agony of defeat in the final last year losing 9-8 to Judd Trump.
The road to the final for Higgins has been a challenging one for the Scotsman as his experience and current form has seen him get past the likes of Ding Junhui, Yan Bingtao and most recently his closest rival over the years, Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-final. An emphatic win over ‘The Rocket’ winning 6-5 consisted of one of the great deciding frames with both players missing pressure shots and getting the luck.
On the other hand, Robertson’s journey has also been a challenging one to get through facing the likes of Mark Davis, Kyren Wilson and Mark King who have all pushed the Aussie to the limit, but with the ‘Rolls Royce’ cue action and long potting ability in which Robertson has, he’s managed to see them all off to reach the final.
The head to head coming into this intriguing clash is 8-7 to Higgins, although they’ve only ever met in one final which was in 2013 in China at the Wuxi Classic where Robertson saw off Higgins winning 10-7. With £70,000 and the Steve Davis trophy up for grabs, who will prevail as the champion?
The iconic MC Phil Seymour introduces the players to a capacity crowd in the Marshall Arena to start the best of 17 frames to obtain the title. Eight frames are to be played in this session and the rest later on tonight to conclude.
Robertson (16) 0 – 0 (0) Higgins – Robertson gets us underway on the break off with Higgins missing the first couple of efforts at reds. A mistake from his latest shot allows Robertson in but is only able to muster up a break of 14 due to the attempt to split the pack proving unsuccessful from a pot on the blue.
Robertson (66) 0 – 0 (0) Higgins – The combination of red to pink is a good one for Robertson as a break of 57 is enough for him to take the first frame after an imposing start.
🎱 Robertson 1 – 0 Higgins
Robertson (26) 1 – 0 (0) Higgins – A sublime start from the Aussie as he continues his great form from his previous match against Mark King. The cue ball hit deadweight into a long red with great position on the black teeing him up for the pack to be split. An attempt not near the level of the long red as the split goes amiss. A handful of poor shots from both players later, but it is Robertson who gets a second bite at the cherry splitting the pack and he does so immaculately.
Robertson (42) 1 – 0 (24) Higgins – An attempt at a canon on a couple of reds above the black proves poor as Robertson lands on nothing. A rare opportunity in the opening stages for Higgins to counter but after a failed attempt at a canon, a break of 24 is all he can manage.
Robertson (66) 1 – 0 (24) Higgins – A desperate effort at a long red to the bottom left pocket for Higgins doesn’t make its mark as Robertson looks to capitalise. A tedious red down the cushion with the black to follow as Robertson looks to take control of proceedings and take this frame. He sinks a loose red into the green pocket which is frame ball and a break of 38 is enough to see him claim another frame.
🎱 Robertson 2 – 0 Higgins
Robertson (0) 2 – 0 (30) Higgins – Glued to the left cushion, Higgins pulls out a brilliant pressure shot into the bottom right pocket. Three reds and blacks later, a poor positional shot means he has to take the blue. A well-engineered canon on a cluster of reds means he can really get a frame on the board here.
Robertson (0) 2 – 0 (53) Higgins – A double attempt from Higgins doesn’t reach the target and a break of 90 is more than enough to grab the frame. A real chance for him to wrestle the match back in his favour from the claws of Robertson.
🎱 Robertson 2 – 1 Higgins
Robertson (32) 2 – 1 (0) Higgins – The pace of the final is picking up here as Robertson feathers in another long pot to land nicely on the black. A bit of awkward cueing and some luck later and he is looking ominous in this break. Finally, the luck runs out as Robertson doesn’t quite make position on the blue and misses the cut. The ball is in Higgins’ court here as he opens up a cluster of reds just below pink meaning a chance to clear the table is looking positive.
Robertson (51) 2 – 1 (46) Higgins – An outstretched Higgins fails to sink the final red of the frame as it rattles the jaws of the bottom right pocket. In return, a shot Robertson will be frustrated with on the yellow results in him only having an option for safety. An unforced error from Robertson leaves Higgins a chance at a red to the left middle pocket and from there clears all the way up to the pink to draw level with the Aussie.
🎱 Robertson 2 – 2 Higgins
Robertson (22) 2 – 2 (0) Higgins – A missed attempt by Robertson leaves Higgins with a chance in this fifth frame but misses it and returns the favour for Robertson to develop some reds early on. A good split of the pack and out of nowhere Robertson hits the half-century mark with more points looking to follow.
Robertson (69) 2 – 2 (0) Higgins – A frightening response from Robertson as he fires in the first century of the final and the 797th of his illustrious career ending the frame with a 140 clearance.
🎱 Robertson 3 – 2 Higgins
Robertson (6) 3 – 2 (1) Higgins – An early safety battle at the beginning of this frame ends with the pack blasting open from a wayward Higgins shot leaving Robertson with a chance to the left middle pocket. A brilliant blue into the green pocket as he demonstrates incredible technique. The next shot he will want to forget about as a simple red to the bottom right pocket is missed, the Aussie will be ruing that opportunity.
Robertson (7) 3 – 2 (2) Higgins – A fascinating safety battle between the pair allows Robertson to leave the cue ball right in behind the green however, Higgins responds with a ‘Mission Impossible’ style four cushion escape to leave nothing easy for Robertson. The safety battle continues as Higgins gets the white in behind the yellow.
Robertson (59) 3 – 2 (2) Higgins – A few exchanges later and Higgins fouls after going in-off. You can’t give Robertson chances like this as he thunders a red into the bottom right pocket. After a fantastic red, the break of 20 comes to an end but nothing easy is left for Higgins. A missed red to the bottom left pocket results in Robertson adding another 20 and finishing off with an elegant long red along with a blue so that he regains the two frame lead.
🎱 Robertson 4 – 2 Higgins
Robertson (0) 4 – 2 (20) Higgins – After a mistake from Robertson, Higgins sinks a red along the cushion into the bottom left pocket. He has a lot of work to do here with the pack but there aren’t many better out there for building breaks. A few shots into engineering the break and he is trapped behind the pack which results in the end of the break.
Robertson (0) 4 – 2 (65) Higgins – A safety battle occurs once again but it is Higgins who capitalises with a well-calculated double to the left middle pocket. An absolutely sublime effort from ‘The Wizard of Wishaw’ as he looks to claw back a frame on Robertson. Running out of position means end of break but quickly returns and gets another opportunity as Robertson accidentally pots the pink whilst playing a safety. Furious with himself, Higgins is out of position for the frame ball red. Despite being annoyed by his error, Higgins manages to take a key frame in this session.
🎱 Robertson 4 – 3 Higgins
Robertson (20) 4 – 3 (1) Higgins – Flashbacks of his younger self, Higgins smashes in a long red and intricately guides the cue ball through a cluster of reds. Out of position on the black, he goes for a long blue which doesn’t manage to find the target and ever so closely misses. Robertson jumps on the chance as he pots a lovely green and frees up the black providing a great chance to clear up and take the final frame of the session.
Robertson (61) 4 – 3 (1) Higgins – Almost robotic snooker from Robertson as he calculates every shot with precision and purpose, dropping in the frame ball at 61 but there are no signs of him stopping there. A fantastically manufactured century and total break of 123 means it is his second ton of the night as he closes in on 800 for his career.
🎱 Robertson 5 – 3 Higgins
🎱 We return from the interval and play resumes…
Robertson (0) 5 – 3 (14) Higgins – A safety shot from Robertson gives a thick reaction leaving a plethora of reds to the disposal of Higgins. He opts for the bottom right pocket but fails to land nicely on the black forcing him to attempt a risky long blue into the yellow pocket. Advantage Higgins as he thunders it home giving him a great chance at the frame here.
Robertson (39) 5 – 3 (42) Higgins – Momentum halted for Higgins as he misses a red to the left middle pocket gifting Robertson a lifeline in this frame. A crucial miss from Robertson a few shots into the clear up as his break of 39 comes to an end, leaving a red teetering over the pocket in which Higgins drops in. A well-constructed clearance up to the pink gains him the first frame of this session.
🎱 Robertson 5 – 4 Higgins
Robertson (0) 5 – 4 (21) Higgins – ‘The Wizard of Wishaw’ means business tonight as he slots home a tricky red into the left middle pocket to land on the yellow. A break of 11 is all he can manage as he misjudges the path of the cue ball which canons off a red, leaving him with another high-risk recovery shot. It’s as if he’s on the practice table as he strokes it in landing on the green. Really battling against the knap of the table is Higgins as he struggles to control the cue ball meaning safety to baulk is the only option.
Robertson (0) 5 – 4 (59) Higgins – Robertson slow on the start for this final session as he misses a poor shot leaving the cue ball and a red in baulk. Higgins makes haste clearing a cluster of reds with blacks, but leaves the cue ball tight to a red meaning awkward cueing. He opts for safety and leaves the cue ball in baulk. A gamble from Robertson as he aims to open up a cluster of reds all positioned along the bottom cushion. A gamble that didn’t pay off as Higgins is left with ‘meat and drink’ shots adding 30 to his score and drawing level at 5-5.
🎱 Robertson 5 – 5 Higgins
Robertson (26) 5 – 5 (0) Higgins – A break of 26 is all Robertson can manage as he reels off five reds and colours whilst playing an ultra attacking shot on the green and developing the pack in the process. Losing position not long after means a safety to baulk, however, there is a real chance to snatch this frame for whoever can keep the cue ball under control efficiently as the table is widespread. A risky long red to the bottom left pocket from Robertson misses, leaving Higgins with an opportunity. The small lead of 26 is now gone as Higgins takes control of the frame with a couple of stray reds near the cushions being insurance for Robertson.
Robertson (26) 5 – 5 (62) Higgins – Higgins with a risky attempt on one of the stray reds near the cushion as it glides down the cushion and into the green pocket. The pink is frame ball as it disappears into the pocket but there is not much else on. Opting for safety, Higgins tries a snooker off the final red but fails to get it and leaves it over the bottom left pocket. A lead of 36 for Higgins with 35 remaining, one snooker needed for Robertson.
Robertson (37) 5 – 5 (62) Higgins – Frame back on now as Robertson reels off the final red followed by pink, managing to creep the cue ball up behind the brown and snookering Higgins on the yellow. A three cushion escape is required but it’s a miss. A safety battle ensues as Robertson decides against taking on the long yellow due to hampered cueing over the black. A poor alternative from Robertson as his safety shot goes skew and the green trickles into the left middle pocket. A gift for Higgins now as he pots the yellow and green to give him the frame and the lead in this match.
🎱 Robertson 5 – 6 Higgins
Robertson (29) 5 – 6 (1) Higgins – A crucial frame for both players as there is an interval soon after. Robertson may want it to come in order to gather himself whereas Higgins will be ruing the interval as it could disrupt his momentum. A poor safety from Robertson leaves Higgins with a red to the bottom left pocket which sinks in, but the position is something that the Scotsman has struggled with throughout this match as he gets too close to the black, meaning a cut is not possible with the rest. After seeing Higgins completely miss the pack altogether, Robertson looks to make amends in this session with a sumptuous long red which frees up the black in turn. Pack developed as he looks to grab a frame back from high flying Higgins.
Robertson (35) 5 – 6 (36) Higgins – After a mere break of 35, Robertson is unable to fully capitalise due to poor position from an extremely tough plant. Absolutely nowhere near the pot and the position was again gambled on, so Higgins has a chance here. Counterattack from Higgins as he reels off an incredible recovery pot on the blue to somehow keep the break going giving him a lead on points in this frame.
Robertson (43) 5 – 6 (61) Higgins – Pressure on Higgins here as he attempts to muster up behind the final red which is frame ball but extraordinarily misses the black with the rest, something which he usually doesn’t get wrong. Robertson pounces clearing out the final red, followed by blue and yellow. Pressure also starting to show for Robertson as he misses a simple green with suggestions that there was a kick. Higgins with a thin cut attempt on the green that narrowly misses leaving it over the pocket but luck is on his side as it is covered by the brown. Robertson will be wondering how the green has stayed out here after he drives the cue ball up and down the table double kissing it but not quite dropping in. Higgins with another frame on the board as he manages to nip in the green with the brown following, but is unable to sink the long-range blue in which rattles the jaws and luckily leaves the white in behind pink. Robertson concedes as his attempt off one cushion goes amiss giving Higgins a two frame lead.
🎱 Robertson 5 – 7 Higgins
Robertson (7) 5 – 7 (7) Higgins – Back after the interval and straight into a safety exchange with tensions rising in the Marshall Arena. Higgins is the first to take a chance as he drops a red quickly followed up by a blue and a red again. Poor positional shots have been a thorn in the side of Higgins tonight as he runs out meaning a thin cut to the bottom left pocket is required. He obliges and what looks like a great recovery pot soon turns sour as he watches the cue ball go straight into the left middle pocket.
Robertson (64) 5 – 7 (7) Higgins – Respite for Robertson after Higgins going in off leads him to a break of 57 and counting. Real grit and determination shown by Robertson here and if he can get his first frame on the board of this final session he will be relieved. An awkward red glued to the cushion is the only thing in the way of Robertson claiming this frame, as he manages to clip it and bring it into play. A total of 80 proves to be enough for the Aussie as he takes this crucial frame.
🎱 Robertson 6 – 7 Higgins
Robertson (1) 6 – 7 (40) Higgins – Big breaks seem to be coming at a premium here as Higgins struggles to make his chance count, only mustering a mere 16 points after turning down the possibility of splitting the pack, instead going for a difficult positional shot on a stray red. Robertson going all out for a red to the bottom right pocket but not making it, leaving Higgins to total up a break of 24 and counting.
Robertson (1) 6 – 7 (71) Higgins – Higgins guarantees the frame ball black missing out on position for the next red. Opting for safety, Higgins plays into baulk but one snooker is all Robertson needs to have a chance in this frame. A snooker in which Higgins gets out of narrowly almost going into the right middle pocket in the process. After taking a couple of reds and blacks, Robertson misses an easy shot, therefore, giving the nod to the ref and conceding the frame.
🎱 Robertson 6 – 8 Higgins
Robertson (27) 0 – 0 (9) Higgins – A tough proposition even for a player of his calibre as Robertson needs to polish off three frames in a row for the title. A poor break off leaves Higgins with a chance but a poor split attempt leaves him with a break of nine. Despite awkward cueing for Robertson, he feathers in a fantastic red leaving him plum on the pink. A chance for him to split the pack as he careers into them with power but without reaction. The cue ball ends up against a red meaning it’s back to the baulk end.
Robertson (46) 0 – 0 (9) Higgins – A safety exchange later and granite-like determination from the Aussie, as he pots a red to the left middle pocket and does the same for the pink. The balls spread nicely for him here as he looks to keep the pressure on Higgins. A quick 52 points are enough to be able to see him over the line in this 15th frame.
🎱 Robertson 7 – 8 Higgins
Robertson (15) 7 – 8 (1) Higgins – Pressure really starting to show on Higgins as he fails to capitalise on a poor safety from Robertson losing position on the black, a common theme of this final. The tough cut on the black doesn’t make it in leaving Robertson with a chance. He opens up the pack but doesn’t land on anything. Will Higgins be able to regain control in these final frames as Robertson is a man on a mission.
Robertson (63) 7 – 8 (1) Higgins – A man on a mission indeed as Robertson gets back to the table and gathers a key half-century with every single shot precise and constructed beautifully. The table just keeps opening up for Robertson as he is rigorous in his break building. A colossal 799 centuries in this man’s career as he makes a break of 120 to force a decider. He’s shown great bottle tonight and there’s no doubt why he’s considered the greatest overseas player to play the game.
🎱 Robertson 8 – 8 Higgins
Robertson (10) 0 – 0 (22) Higgins – Goosebumps as the jam-packed crowd in the Marshall Arena break the decibel meter in time for this deciding frame. A smile and handshake to start the decider as Higgins misses the first chance into the bottom right pocket. Up steps Robertson as he jabs in a red and lands inch-perfect on the blue.
Robertson (36) 0 – 0 (22) Higgins – Higgins gets his chance after Robertson misses a deadweight long red. He makes haste by cutting in a red ever so thin into the bottom left pocket and gets to opening up the pack from the blue. Methodically, he starts to build his break but momentum is halted as he runs out of position once again, but luckily clips a red into the left middle pocket. A sign of the tides turning at the right time for Higgins here?
Robertson (61) 0 – 0 (22) Higgins – Poor positional play not long after the fluke as Robertson arrows in a long red to the bottom right pocket landing plum on the yellow. A possible frame winning break here from Robertson as everything is clicking nicely into place. A cluster of five reds is all that stands between Robertson and the Steve Davis trophy. Like clockwork, he pots them one by one relentlessly as Higgins sinks into his chair with the frame ball disappearing and 65 points being enough. Robertson has done it, a fantastic show of bottle from the Aussie as he wins his first English Open and £70,000. You have to feel for Higgins here though as an identical result happened against Mark Allen in the final of the Northern Ireland Open with him being 6-8 up but going on to lose the match 9-8. No 800th career century for Robertson but a 22nd ranking event title to his name, further cementing his legacy as snooker’s greatest overseas player.
🏆 Robertson 9 – 8 Higgins
Reflecting on the Match
Agony for Higgins but ecstasy for Robertson as the Aussie lifts his 22nd ranking event title after a fantastic comeback from 7-5 down at the interval. Recent history repeats itself for Higgins as sadly his opponent has come back again to claim the title (Mark Allen, 2021 Northern Ireland Open). A shaky opening few frames for Higgins but the Scotsman kicked on and clawed his way back to really take the match to Robertson with some fantastic pressure pots to keep his breaks going. Position was an issue for both players a little bit tonight but more so for Higgins as he struggled to tame the cueball on a few key shots meaning he had to play safety shots much more often than he’d have liked to. Many plaudits for Higgins in the end and rightly so as it was a fantastic overall match from him but the congratulations goes to Robertson who looked down and out at the interval, regaining control in the final session and scratching and clawing his way to claim the title in the end.