John Higgins has vowed to put his “heart and soul” into his quest to break a run of three consecutive losing finals and claim a fifth world snooker title at the Crucible.
The 45-year-old begins his campaign against fellow veteran Matthew Stevens on Saturday and says lockdown has left him refreshed and ready to chase down what would be his first win in almost a decade.
Higgins said: “Going on results compared to previous seasons, my form is probably not as good – but I’ve not had great seasons in the last three years and I’ve still managed to get to the final.
“But I’ve been enjoying my practice in the last three or four weeks. If someone is going to take something away from you though, you probably realise how lucky you are doing something that you love doing. That applies to myself.
“I’ve been in eight finals, won four and lost four. If someone had told me I’d have won four world titles growing up then I’d have bitten their hand off. But the last three years losing the finals has not been great.”
Higgins first met Stevens at the Crucible in 2001, when he edged him 17-15 in a tight semi-final before moving on to suffer a final defeat at the hands of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
And he admitted he had been hoping for a more favourable first round draw than the Welshman, twice a losing finalist who fought through qualifying to reach the Crucible for a 17th year.
“I was wanting somebody who’d never been there before, but I’ve got the worst one,” said Higgins. “Matthew’s got the best pedigree out of any of the qualifiers.
“Around the late 1990s and early 2000s it was as if he was just a scoring machine. He was guaranteed to being one of the favourites for the world title. I know he’s dropped off a little bit, but you can never discount Matthew.”