MARTIN GOULD is one of those players who is so highly regarded that it would not be considered a surprise if he won a ranking title and he has the chance to do so on Sunday at the Australian Goldfields Open in Bendigo.
Gould was superb in dispatching Stephen Maguire 6-1 in the semi-finals to set up a meeting with another Scot, John Higgins, in the best of 17 frames final.
What impressed was how confidently Gould took the game to Maguire. He fully went for his shots and enough of them went in. He made three big breaks – 82, 87 and 100 – and overall produced a positive, high quality display.
Most players have lost matches from a long way in front but this sticks to some more than others. Multi-champions tend to have their reverses forgotten because they are crowded out by the successes.
Gould has won a PTC, the Championship League, the Shootout and Power Snooker and been runner-up in the 2011 Players Tour Championship grand finals but he is also known for losing 13-12 from 11-5 up to Neil Robertson in the second round of the 2010 World Championship and 6-5 from 5-1 up to Judd Trump in the semi-finals of last season’s World Grand Prix.
It is inevitable people will remember matches like this but less prominent are the many times when he hasn’t lost having been well in front – his last two matches in Bendigo for instance.
Gould’s problem hasn’t been in getting over the line but inconsistency of performance. A fine potter, his B game is perhaps not as strong as that of some other players, so he needs his A game to be working.
The good news is that it is working in Australia. The bad news is that it is Higgins next.
The four times world champion has all the experience at this stage of big tournaments. If Higgins wins the final it will net him his 27th world ranking title, equalling Ronnie O’Sullivan’s tally and moving him just one behind Steve Davis with Stephen Hendry still well out in front on 36.
Higgins played very well indeed from 4-0 down to Jamie Jones, for whom the interval was about as welcome as a bacon sandwich at a Morrissey gig.
When at the table, players can concentrate on what is immediately ahead of them but, sat with 15 minutes to kill outside the arena, it must be hard not to think about what it all means and, for Jones, it would have been the best win of his career.
It obviously did not help his cause that Higgins started to play great stuff when they resumed, with a couple of centuries helping him win six on the spin.
When Gould plays his best he demonstrates a fearless style and this inevitably transfers pressure to his opponents. Higgins is one of the best pressure players the game has ever seen but, at 40, he knows there won’t be that many more trophies.
So an interesting contrast, then, in the final between a player looking to consolidate his reputation as one of the sport’s great champions and one trying to land his biggest title yet.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.