Higgins pays O'Sullivan the ultimate snooker compliments ahead of Crucible semi

John Higgins has hailed Ronnie O’Sullivan as the greatest and said he is proud to be playing in the same era as the Rocket ahead of their huge World Snooker Championship semi-final, starting on Thursday.

The two legends of the game meet for a sixth time in the World Championship, with Higgins picking up three wins and O’Sullivan two in their previous five Crucible meetings.

They first locked horns in Sheffield in the 1996 quarter-finals and they are still scrapping it out on the sport’s biggest stage at 46 years old – with the other member of the Class of 92, Mark Williams, in the other semi-final against Judd Trump.

In all contests, this will be the 77th time Higgins and O’Sullivan have played each other, with the Scot winning 35 and the Englishman 38 – with three draws in there for good measure.

Having played each other for over 30 years going back to their junior days, you might think O’Sullivan has lost the aura for Higgins that he holds for other players, but that is not the case.

The Wizard of Wishaw is still in awe of the Rocket all these years on, even though he appears to have had his number of late, winning six of their last seven matches.

‘Listen, he has got an aura, of course he has,’ said Higgins. ‘He’s the greatest, I think I said that when I first seen him play snooker, he just had that way about him.

‘As I’ve said before, he’s like the Ready Brek boy, he’s just got that magic stardust.

‘I’ve never been jealous of him in all my life, with all his achievements, because I’m just proud I’m playing in an era with him and the likes of Mark as well. I really am. I’m chuffed to bits.’

Higgins booked his spot in the semis thanks to a 13-12 win over Jack Lisowski in an epic quarter-final in Sheffield.

The four-time world champion looked in big trouble at 12-11 down but showed that he is made of the sternest stuff once again as he made breaks of 105 and 72 to win the final two frames and progress.

Having lost in five finals this season, he has admitted that his confidence has been rocked at least a little, but with the old granite on display again, he will be confident once more against the Rocket.

‘Really this season it’s not been classic John Higgins,’ he said. ‘This season has been pretty poor, I’ve wilted a lot. So that should give me some confidence that when I get to the crux of the match I can stand up and produce the good.

‘I’m proud that I did it there in the last couple of frames.’

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