Why I'm backing my old rival John Higgins to rediscover his golden touch

Why I'm backing my old rival John Higgins to rediscover his golden touch

14/01/2015 at 19:44Updated

Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins have won the world title nine times between them since 1998. Ronnie is a bit mystified why his old rival has been struggling for consistency since winning the last of his world titles in 2011.

In writing his latest blog from Alexandra Palace in London where he is defending his Masters title, Ronnie shares his views on how the snooker season has unravelled so far. He tells Eurosport's Desmond Kane who are his top five players of the season, picks out his favourite rising star and reveals why Roger Federer's approach to the major events in tennis is a great blueprint.

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I have a sneaky feeling John Higgins is going to be a contender again this year. He played really well against Mark Allen yesterday, and was unfortunate to lose 6-4 in the first round of the Masters. He compiled three centuries, and could easily have made a 147 in that match. He is too good a player not to be going further than he has been in competitions. This guy is the real deal. He really is the players's professional.

I'm sure if you asked most professionals who is the best player they have seen, many will say John Higgins. His all-round game is just so strong. I can't work out why he has been struggling so much. It seems odd.

The four-times world champion lost 6-4 in a match of some quality against Mark Allen at the Masters.

That is why I'm tipping him for some more victories in tournaments in the near future. Some will say John Higgins is the greatest of all-time, and some will say Stephen Hendry.

It all depends on what takes your fancy, and which style most people appreciate, but both are awesome players, true greats of the game.

MY TOP FIVE PLAYERS OF THE SEASON SO FAR

I think the players in form and playing the best snooker at the moment are Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Stephen Maguire. I'd have to throw Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy in there too. They are playing some great stuff, but it is no coincidence that these guys have been playing a lot of competitions.

They have the competitive juices flowing, and at the ready because that is what happens when you are match sharp. As I know from personal experience, it is a great feeling to have.

It is almost as if you have got several gears at the ready. There is no better feeling: you sense danger quickly, and you are so quick to react to situations that it happens so fast. You make those crunch shots at the vital moments.

That is what makes those five players the men who are always going to be the names in the hat to win any tournament.

The 2005 world champion is rediscovering some of his best form. He completed a 6-5 win over Mark Selby at the Masters.

I can't help but think that Shaun Murphy would swap all three PTC (Players Tour Championship) events he won last year to win one major event like a UK Championship.

He has played some superb snooker at the wrong times. If he could have produced the form he showed in Mulheim, Germany - where he dominated the tournament and made a classy 147 - at the UK Championship, I have no doubt he would have won it. But it is not easy.

You don't know when your best game is going to arrive, Sometimes you just have to go with it, but timing is everything in snooker.

DING JUNHUI AND MARK SELBY HAVE YET TO GET GOING

You have to applaud the form of Ding Junhui and Mark Selby last season. They played lots of matches, lots of PTC events and they looked very sharp at the business end of all the competitions.

This season they have not played as much. That is reason I believe they have lost a little bit of that edge they had last year.

They are still playing very good snooker, but they are just a bit slower out of the blocks and you can't afford to be in this era of snooker as you have seen this week.

The other guys are sharp and hungry, rapid out of the blocks and quick to take advantage of any weakness they sense. This is what snooker is like in the modern era.

Will players like Ding and Selby come strong in the second half of the season? It is a long season and it may be a case that no one can play well all year round. There are so many playing opportunities, and their time is probably yet to come.

It is going to be a fascinating end to this season running up to the World Championship in May with so many players performing so well.

Gary Anderson won his first PDC title with a thrilling 7-6 win over Phil Taylor in the final.

SNOOKER MUST ASPIRE TO THE EXCELLENCE OF DARTS PLAYERS

I must admit the standard has never been so high. I put this down to (World Snooker chairman) Barry Hearn giving the players more playing opportunities.

The players here are playing every week, pushing each other every week to raise their games.

There is no practice like match practice. You can't pick and choose your events. I know you have to embrace the new era of snooker - have cue will travel, so to speak. I know I've not played as much as the other guys, but I've still played more than I thought I needed to. Or wanted to.

I don't feel as sharp as I did when I won the Masters one year ago, and that is because I've not played enough competitions.

It is something I will have to address. I've seen how it has changed the standard in darts where the standard has become scary as we seen with Gary Anderson's win over Phil Taylor at the Ally Pally a few weeks ago. But they are only playing to an extremely high level because they are playing week in, week out.

It really is the same with snooker now. You have to be playing 70 per cent of the events. Otherwise you get left behind.

But I also think there is a danger of playing too much, and each player has got to find when to back off and when to keep going. I know you have these PTC events, and any competition is nice to win.

Roger Federer on a speedboat (Getty)

ROGER FEDERER IS AN EXAMPLE IN HOW TO PEAK FOR THE BIG EVENTS

Sometimes it is good to hold your form back if you can. I think the top tennis players do this better than anyone. Roger Federer is a master at making sure he plays himself into form for the Grand Slams. Federer or Novak Djokovic never go eyeballs out in the smaller events - they treat it like a practice match.

They don't try to make every ball - they save that for the major tournaments. I think that is how the smaller PTC events in snooker should be treated by the top guys. I use them as a warm up. Go for your shots, and try new things out.

Sometimes taking an early loss in these events ain't all that bad. It is better to do that than not to play in them. One match is better then no matches.

My aim in the PTCs is always to get through the first day. Once I've done that, the competition has served its purpose. It is time to focus on the major events coming up.

Ronnie has been impressed by the standard of the Scottish player after he was forced to battle to a 6-4 win in the UK Championship last eight.

SURPRISE PACKAGE OF THE SEASON

I've forgotten to mention Anthony McGill. I think this guy is going to be a tournament winner, and a major one at that.

He has the whole package, and is very composed on the big occasion. He is my tip to make a big breakthrough soon.

Follow live coverage of Ronnie O'Sullivan's quarter-final with Marco Fu at the Masters from 1pm (GMT) on British Eurosport on Thursday.

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