One spot in the Tour Championship final has been filled and the second one will be taken up when John Higgins takes on Luca Brecel inside Venue Cymru on Saturday to determine the opponent for Neil Robertson on Sunday.
These two men have already met in this arena once this season when they contested the Scottish Open final. Brecel won with a bit in hand on that occasion so Higgins will be looking to get some revenge while the Belgian will be hoping for a repeat here.
John Higgins could be forgiven for wondering how he is in this Tour Championship semi-final. On a number of occasions last Saturday he could have been knocked out of the tournament completely but then he finally looked like he was going to be put out of his misery when he trailed Zhao Xintong 8-4 only for the Chinese ace to see the finish line a little early and allow the Scot back into their match, an invitation he snapped up to win in a deciding frame.
Higgins didn’t really have to do too much to come through that in the end, it kind of got handed to him and I would imagine he’ll be pleased with that because his record in two session matches this season isn’t great. He has been to four finals and lost the lot and was odds on to lose on Monday before Zhao collapsed. Higgins did claim the travelling and everything caught up with him in that match so we should see a much better version of him in this one. We will need to though.
Even though he has won the Scottish Open and made the final of the UK Championship this season, Luca Brecel came into the competition as the outsider of the eight but he soon showed he wasn’t here to make up the numbers when he powered into a 6-2 lead over Judd Trump on Thursday. He didn’t have it all his own way in the second session but he got over the line with more than enough to spare and has set up what is pretty much a free hit for him here.
I say that because the 40,000 ranking points he has earned will all go on his ranking with this being his debut in the competition. That said though he isn’t yet at the stage of his career where he is making these events on a regular basis so he will probably want to do some damage while he is here. He scored pretty well in the main on Thursday and I really liked how he didn’t panic when Trump was coming back hard at him. That patience and poise could serve him very well here.
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Head to head
These two men have only met on five previous occasions with Higgins holding a 4-1 lead. Brecel will know he won their biggest meeting though which came at the Scottish Open final earlier this season. Higgins leads 23-18 in the frame count and when you consider half of the Brecel total was won in that final it highlights how well beaten he was in the four games he lost. This will be their second semi-final with Higgins winning 6-4 in the 2015 Welsh Open. It will also be just their second multi-session match. Their first was that final which Brecel won here at the back end of 2021.
Those who followed us in at the start of the week will be on Brecel at a shade over 8/1 to win this semi-final after we got on board at 25/1 before a ball was hit and based on what we saw in the first round I’m happy to let that bet ride even though all six semi-finalists I’ve had on the verge of a pay out have all lost in 2022. I’m not convinced Brecel is much of an outsider here if he is even one at all. I do think this will be a close match though so that is where my bet for the semi-final will come.
You can get 5/6 on there being more than 16.5 frames in this match and with three of the five matches in the tournament so far having needed a deciding frame to sort out and the other two containing players who never showed up until they were miles behind I think the omens are good on a close match here. Neither player will want to give up their opportunity without a good fight and in just five meetings between the pair they have played out 6-4, 4-3 and 4-2 scores so it isn’t like they are averse to close matches. I fancy Brecel to edge this one but over 16.5 frames looks the way to play this clash.
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