Published: 08:01, 05 March 2018
Barry Hawkins was gutted to lose to John Higgins in the final but says he's starting to believe in himself again after his run at the ManBetX Welsh Open.
The Ditton cueman enjoyed several leads but settled for a £30,000 runners-up cheque as Higgins claimed a record fifth Ray Reardon Trophy with a 9-7 victory.
But Hawkins, who took time off the tour at the start of the season on compassionate grounds, was philosophical about the defeat.
“I’m gutted. I tried my hardest and would have been over the moon to lift that title,” said the three-time ranking event winner.
“I think it was a good standard. I played really well but felt he was the stronger player and more clinical in the balls. I can’t beat myself up, I played pretty well there. John is one of the all-time greats and I put him under pressure.”
The world No.8 edged the opener but Higgins delivered an emphatic response with a 138 clearance. The Hawk went in front twice but had his wings clipped on both occasions, the four-time world champion levelling at 2-2 with 141 and nicking two to go 4-4.
The Kent cueman notched successive centuries to level terms once more at 6-6, but the Wizard of Wishaw won three of the final four frames to triumph.
In total Hawkins let three leads slip, meaning he felt a pang of regret at not pressing home long-held advantages.
“When you’re playing an all-time great, you’ve got to keep punishing and punishing them and keeping them under pressure,” he added.
“I let John off the hook a few times. He’s such a class player and a tough opponent. As long as John wants it, he can keep on winning. It was a good final and I played my part in it, but it’s not nice coming second again.”
Hawkins took months off the tour at the start of the season after the tragic suicide of his brother-in-law last April.
Having failed to qualify to defend his World Grand Prix title, the 38-year-old heads to the Crucible next month for the World Championship hoping to repeat his run to the final five years ago.
Hawkins says his positive performance at the Home Nations event, particularly in his quarter-final defeat of Yan Bingtao, can help achieve a positive end to the season.
“Before I came here, I would have ripped someone’s arm off to get to the final,” said the potter, who left his suitcase at home on the way to the tournament.
“If I can keep working hard and keep showing that type of form, I’ll get some good results. I'm coming back, my game's coming back and I'm starting to believe in myself again."
The Welsh Open was LIVE on Eurosport, Eurosport Player and Quest with Andy Goldstein and analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.
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