Players Championship Final: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs John Higgins

The pair will play in a ranking event final for the first time in more than 15 years.

All-time greats Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins will do battle in a mouthwatering Players Championship final showdown on Sunday in Milton Keynes.

The pair first turned professional together almost 29 years ago, and their longevity at the very highest echelons is something that the game has never seen before.

The 45 year-olds have faced each other in 17 title-deciding matches, the first of which occurring in the 1995 Masters when they were still just 19 years of age – O’Sullivan prevailing with a 9-3 scoreline.

Their most recent encounter at this stage was in the 2016 Champion of Champions, when Higgins emerged as the winner to end the Rocket’s unbeaten domination in the event.

But, somewhat surprisingly, you have to go all the way back to the 2005 Grand Prix for their most recent final against one another in a ranking tournament.

That day was also Higgins’, when the Wizard of Wishaw memorably became the first player to compile four consecutive century breaks in a 9-2 drubbing in Preston.

Although they have tussled numerous more times since – they actually possess the record for the most-frequent rivalry overall – the majority of their matches in the last decade have come at the quarter-final or semi-final hurdle.

Heading into what will be their 71st professional bout, O’Sullivan boasts the slight advantage with 37 wins to 30 from Higgins, and three draws.

The latter has been in incredible form this week in reaching the Players Championship final, losing only one out of the 19 frames he has participated in across the first three rounds.

Higgins failed to make it three whitewash victories in a row but still thumped Kyren Wilson 6-1 in the second semi-final on Saturday night.

For O’Sullivan, who fought back from 3-0 behind to deny Barry Hawkins in the last four, the world champion has bounced back strongly from the disappointment of losing last week’s Welsh Open final to underdog Jordan Brown in a decider at the Celtic Manor.

Indeed, the Englishman has lost all three of his finals since he was crowned champion at the Crucible for a sixth time last August.

Higgins, whose rise in standard has been put down to a minor adjustment in which he is now addressing his shot closer to the cue ball, hasn’t won a ranking event since 2018.

Something will have to give over the best-of-19 frames, and everyone is expecting for there to be fireworks despite the fact that the action will unfortunately have to take place behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena.

Snooker fans at home, however, will surely be in for a special treat as two of the sport’s biggest legends clash on centre stage for the £125,000 top prize.

In the betting market, four-time world champion Higgins is a slight underdog with odds of 11/10 at William Hill.

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