LONDON (AFP) – Four-time champion John Higgins has said it is “heart-breaking” to miss his annual visit to snooker’s World Championship for the first time in 25 years, although he understands why the tournament is not taking place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The championship was meant to start at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, northern England, on Saturday (April 18), with Higgins – runner-up in the past three editions – one of the favourites.

But with Britain in lockdown, snooker has followed major sports worldwide in coming to a standstill.

There have been suggestions the championship may take place in July, but in the meantime Higgins’s bid for a fifth world title remains on hold.

“For the past 25 years I have been getting myself ready at this time to go down to Sheffield,” Higgins told tournament sponsors Betfred.

“I haven’t missed a year and that’s more than half of my life,” the 44-year-old Scot added.

“It’s heartbreaking, but we know there are more important things out there going on. One day hopefully we’ll be back there competing.”

Higgins, who lost in the first round of his world championship debut in 1995, took the title in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

But the past three years have seen him finish runner-up to Mark Selby, Mark Williams and Judd Trump.

“I’ve got to take heart from reaching those finals, it shows I’m doing something right,” Higgins said.

“I tried my hardest but just came up against three unbelievable champions.

“If I could win it again then I will have won it in four different decades. That would be an incredible achievement but time is running out.

“It will just be special to play there again. I’ll hopefully be there for a couple of more years yet, putting my heart and soul into it and maybe giving the fans a bit of enjoyment.”

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