Higgins loses out again


RONNIE O'SULLIVAN put 11 months of frustration behind him to lift the Liverpool Victoria Charity Challenge in Birmingham last night.

O'Sullivan, who had not won a title since he hammered fellow [young gun John Higgins 9-3 in the Benson and Hedges Masters final last February, repeated the trick with a 9-6 victory over Higgins to take the £30,000 first prize.

The Essex-based cuemaster has put an abysmal start to the season behind him with some sparkling snooker in this tournament, beating Ireland's Ken Doherty in the semi-final and topping it off with a fine victory in this battle of the 20-year-olds.

Afterwards O'Sullivan, whose success guaranteed a £100,000 donation from the sponsors for his nominated charity - the National Deaf Childrens Society - admitted he had felt under pressure to end the worst spell of his short pro-career.

He said: "It's great to win a tournament again after so long and the butterflies really started to fly around as the winning line got closer and closer.

"A nice bonus is that by winning this event other people benefit as well as yourself and that motivated me from the word go.

O'Sullivan was suffering from a crisis of confidence after being bundled out in the first round of three of this season's opening four world ranking competitions - even though he insists that those surprise defeats were not down to a lack of preparation.

"It was something upstairs that was wrong," he said. "I found it hard to focus on one thing but a good friend of mine told me I'd got to start concentrating on my game."

Higgins pocketed a runners-up cheque for £20,000 and his run to the final swelled the coffers of the Leukaemia Research Fund by £3,000.