By Nick Harris
12 November 2010
The former world No1, John Higgins, has returned to action today after a six-month ban with a win in his first match, 4-2 over Joe Jogia, in the first round of the Euro Players Tour Championship in Hamm, Germany.
The event is minor but the victory a massive step in the rehabilitation of the 35-year-old Scot following his ban and fine for failing to report an approach about fixing frames by uncover reporters from a tabloid newspaper.
Higgins, three times a world champion, was effectively cleared of match-fixing (the most serious charges were dropped) in September; he had been suspended since the start of May following a News of the World sting operation had culminated with him being filmed apparently agreeing to lose frames at unspecified – and fictional – future events.
An independent tribunal hearing, chaired by Ian Mill QC, found that Higgins never intended to fix any match (ruling here).
Higgins did not pick up a cue between being banned (primarily for failing to report the incident) and being cleared. The tribunal verdict coincided with Higgins’ father, John Snr, being told his cancer was terminal.
Higgins’ next match in the PTC will now be against Dave Harold, this evening. The event, however far Higgins goes, will act as a warm-up ahead of the significantly higher-profile UK Championship in Telford next month. The PTC is being played in front of a small crowd and the atmosphere is low-key.
“I was very rusty coming back into it but I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Higgins said afterwards. “I felt very nervous. Obviously it was the first match back, so hopefully I can play better. I found the nerves quite difficult but once you’re out there you try to concentrate on what’s at hand.”
Higgins said the nerves were “similar” to a world championship final. “Every match takes on its own importance and it was a big match for me. When you get down to the nitty-gritty and you’re faced with the pressure balls, then the nerves get to you a little bit. But apart from that I felt quite good … I was worried about [being away so long] and I’m still worried about it. It’s probably the longest I’ve taken off so it’s going to be hard to get back into the swing of things, but the more matches I play, hopefully I’ll get back up to speed again. But I was confident this day would come.”
More quotes and more details on the match can be found at the World Snooker website link here.
8.30pm update: Higgins eased past Harold 4-0. More here. And then met Martin Gould.