John Higgins has pinpointed Jamie Cope and Mark Allen as the men who hold snooker’s future in their hands.
Higgins, 33, was delighted to prove he remains a major player in the sport after sealing a brilliant 13-12 victory over Cope to reach the Betfred.com World Championship quarter-finals.
The Scot today begins his last-eight clash with Leicester’s Mark Selby, the 25-year-old from Leicester who beat 2006 champion Graeme Dott 13-10 last night.
Many expect the winner of the match to go on to lift the title next Monday, following’s Ronnie O’Sullivan’s early exit at the hands of Allen.
However, Higgins considers the title to be up for grabs and is enjoying watching the new talent emerging.
He said: “Obviously Ronnie is the number one player and it’s a big loss to the tournament but Mark Allen fully deserves his time because it’s people like him and Jamie Cope coming through who are the future of this game.”
Higgins recovered from 12-10 down against Cope by reeling off three successive frames, the third after the players left the arena following a member of the audience being taken ill.
Higgins said: “I knew he wouldn’t bottle it. He’s not that kind of player.
“I was just lucky that he didn’t really get a clear-cut chance to win the match.”
Cope said: “I think John played close to his best, which made it good to be 12-10 up.
“I hope John goes on to win it. I’d definitely put him favourite.”
Shaun Murphy was expected to provide the stiffest test yet of Stephen Hendry’s title credentials in their quarter-final match beginning today.
Murphy was defeated in the first round by seven-time winner Hendry on his 2002 Crucible debut but went on to be world champion in 2005.
The 26-year-old Sale-based cueman grew up at a time when Hendry was dominating world snooker but the Scot was never his idol.
“Steve Davis was always my favourite,” said Murphy.
“For the group of people I grew up with, at the snooker club where I started out, Davis was the man.
“It’s like following a football team, you tend to follow who your friends follow.”