JOHN HIGGINS admits the prospect of missing the Masters for the first time in 20 years is focusing his mind as he bids for a good run at the Coral UK Championship.

Higgins defeated Lee Walker 6-2 at the Barbican in York on Wednesday to get his latest UK Championship campaign off to a winning start.

The 39 year-old, UK champion in 1998, 2000 and 2010, came into the event 12th in the world rankings but lower when points are deducted from the 2012 staging.

He would need an unlikely series of results to deny him a top 16 place and Masters berth but knows that he requires a significant improvement in form if he is to stem a general decline.

“Most of my career has been up and down,” Higgins said. “I’ve had some tough spells and then some good spells. So I’m going through a bad spell right now but you don’t know. Obviously I’m trying and still have the competitive desire, that’s still there.

“I’m going to try my best. This week is important because if results go against me I won’t be in the Masters. That would be a big blow. You normally take it for granted you’ll be at the Masters. But you don’t deserve to be there if you don’t win matches – and I haven’t been winning matches.”

Higgins was completely shut out against Marco Fu at the Ruhr Open last weekend, failing to pot a single ball as he was beaten 4-0.

The Scot’s last major success came in September 2012 when he came from 7-2 down to beat Judd Trump in the final of the Shanghai Masters.

“I’m low on confidence just now,” Higgins said. “Last couple of tournaments, the credit has to go to my opponents, Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu. I didn’t do much wrong but I’ve come here looking for a run.

“As you get older you don’t know if a win can kick-start you. I’m hoping it will because I haven’t really done much in the last two or three years.”

Higgins made a highest break of 80 in generally routine win over Walker and now plays Jamie Cope in the last 64.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.