John Higgins believes the “prestige” of the UK Championship has been restored now it has returned to the iconic Barbican Centre in York.
The Triple Crown tournament was first played in the York venue in 2001 when Ronnie O’Sullivan won the third of his seven titles but was taken to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes for the 2020 edition.
It returned to the Barbican the year after and Higgins paid tribute to the atmosphere during his first-round win over Joe O’Connor and said the event is now back on a par with the Masters and the World Championship.
“I really enjoyed it,” Higgins said, after completing a 6-3 win over O’Connor. “Good atmosphere, obviously Ronnie [O’Sullivan] is playing Ants [Anthony McGill] on the other table. The UK is back now.
“It should never have left this prestige because it really feels like a right top tournament now. It feels just like the Masters and the Worlds.
“Last season, I lost my first game to Tom Ford, so I was desperate to come down and try to win a game and get my teeth into the tournament.”
He has certainly done that. Higgins is into the last 16 after beating O’Connor and will meet either Neil Robertson or Zhou Yuelong for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Scotsman, who is a three-time UK champion, won four of the first five frames before O’Connor hit back to get within one at 4-3.
But a careless mistake when he potted the white allowed Higgins to reassert his dominance with a clinical century before he got over the line with another high break in the ninth frame.
“It was a good win for me. Joe will be kicking himself that he’s screwed into the green bag and then left me an easy opener to then do a break to make it 5-3, but all I was concentrating on today was actually keeping my shoulders up.
“That was it, keep my shoulders up because obviously, in the last wee while, maybe they’ve been getting slumped a little bit, so all I was doing was just concentrating, stay upright and see what happens.”
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