After a week of shocks and surprises in the Welsh Open we are down to the final and despite big names disappearing regularly throughout the tournament we are left with two top eight ranked players to battle it out for the title inside the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Sunday.
Barry Hawkins will take on John Higgins over two sessions and the best of 17 frames for the title and the £70,000 first prize which could have dramatic implications on the rankings for the tournaments to come.
Going into this tournament it had been a season to forget for Barry Hawkins with the reasons for that well documented over the weekend. We won’t go into those other than to respect that the left-hander has seen those tough times through and now looks set to finish the season with a flourish, beginning with this final.
Hawkins has come through the draw pretty well this week and in Martin Gould and Yan Bingtao he saw off some competent opposition as well as taking advantage of a couple of favourable draws along the way. He has scored generally well and when the balls haven’t gone as liked he has played smart snooker which has served him good.
There is something about the Welsh air that John Higgins seems to thrive on. He is bidding to win this title for the fifth time in this final and if he is successful that will be a record. He has also been beaten in a couple of finals so he is used to being involved on the final day of this particular tournament which may serve him well.
Higgins has looked very good this week. In Stephen Maguire and Ronnie O’Sullivan he has seen off a couple of standout performers and while he wasn’t at his best in the semi-final he acknowledged after the match that the pressure of expectation was a reason for that. He seemed pretty confident he would play better in this final and we should take him on his word.
Head to Head
These two have met on 15 previous occasions if you include their battles in the Championship League and Higgins leads but only by 8-7. Their last meeting came in the World Championship last year when Higgins won 17-8. This will be the first time they have met in a final so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
I’m actually struggling to call this final given how both struggled in the semi-final. My hunch is that John Higgins will ultimately prevail but I am expecting both men to play well and if that is the case we should get a really good quality final whichever way it goes.
I will go with one bet though which is for Barry Hawkins to put in a break of 102 or more. The only time we’ve seen him on the match table in a match he has known he has had to play very well to win was against Bingtao when he slammed in runs of 137 and 141 in a dominant win. In his two finals last year he made five centuries in one and covered this line in the other. Hawkins is no stranger to nailing centuries against Higgins so over the course of the 17 frames I fancy he’ll produce one huge break at some point.
WON – Back B.Hawkins’ Highest Break – 102pts or more for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Betfred
Back him here: