WORLD snooker champion John Higgins will aim to become the first player in 15 years to retain the UK Championship title when the competition gets under way at York’s Barbican Centre on Saturday.
Last year, the Wizard of Wishaw produced the most dramatic of recoveries from four frames down with five to play to beat Mark Williams 10-9 and secure his third UK title.
Not since Stephen Hendry in 1996 – when he defeated Higgins in the final – has a player defended snooker’s second most prestigious title.
Higgins said this week: “You don’t get any easy matches nowadays. It just shows you how difficult it is in sport, especially snooker, to come back and defend a big title.
“If Stephen Hendry was the last one to do it 15 years ago, it shows it is a difficult thing to do. I’ll try to do my best. I have not been in the best of form lately but, hopefully, I can play my best stuff.”
This year’s defending champion is first up on Saturday and takes on England’s Rory McLeod in round one.
The 36-year-old added: “You don’t look at the draws nowadays because everyone plays to the same high standards.
“None of the top players look at who they are playing. They just hopefully get their game in good shape and if they manage to win they win and if they don’t, they don’t.
“Hopefully, in the next few days, I can get on the practice table, try to put my work in and be ready.”
Higgins said he hoped his ability to peak for the biggest matches would help him rediscover his touch.
The four-time world champion said: “York’s a great place and there aren’t many nicer cities at Christmas to be around and about. I am sure all the players are looking forward to going back there.”
l Higgins is sporting a moustache this month in aid of Movember, which focuses on cancers which can affect men. To boost his total and donate, log on to uk.movember.com.