• Snooker

O'Sullivan admits Higgins inspired him to play snooker

ESPN staff
July 25, 2010
Alex Higgins refused to wear bow ties © Getty Images

Ronnie O'Sullivan has paid tribute to Alex Higgins after the two-time world champion died on Saturday, admitting "The Hurricane" was the reason he got into snooker.

Higgins lost his battle with throat cancer at the age of 61, bringing an end to the life of arguably the most controversial player to have ever graced the sport. At his best, Higgins was the top player in the world as he claimed world titles in 1972 and 1982, but it was his relationship with the fans that revitalised the game of snooker.

O'Sullivan, himself a three-time world champion, told the Sunday Telegraph: "Alex Higgins was one of the real inspirations behind me getting into snooker in the first place. He is a legend of snooker, and should forever be remembered as the finest ever snooker player."

Steve Davis summed up the impact of Higgins on snooker, insisting he moved the sport into a new era. A fast thinker at the table, Davis recalls fondly Higgins' ability to play with the boundaries of the sport's etiquette.

"As a player he had so much fascination for the crowd and fans that watched him because he was such a competitive animal, and you always knew how he was feeling," Davis told Sky Sports News.

"In a game that is reserved and we wear bow ties and suits you could read what Alex Higgins was thinking. He had that magnetism that is rare in sport and he was demonstrative around the table. He drew people who would not necessarily have watched snooker to the game.

"Ray Reardon and John Spencer were great champions of the 70s but the person who dragged the game further was Alex Higgins. He used to wear this awful garb, he wore white trousers and a tank top for the World Championship and the authorities were always trying to pin him down to wear a bow tie but he always took it off. He would even bring bottles of champagne in for the board. He had that cheek in him.

"It caused problems within the game, upsetting all and sundry at an official level and the crowd loved him for it. He was a genius and along with Ronnie (O'Sullivan) and Jimmy (White), they are the three players who have had more shots that they could play.

"He hated the authorities of the game, he would be spitting blood when they turned him away or tried to ban him for misdemeanours that led to his downfall. My memories are of what a clever player on a snooker table he was. He was a player I had so many battles with, it was a pleasure to play against the man."

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