It was the seventh ranking event of the snooker season as 128 of the world’s best snooker players arrived in Manchester, at Event City for the first English open, in this format. The UK open series ran from the 10th to the 16th of October, and featured players such as the world number 1; Mark Selby, legend ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan, Former World Champion Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy, plus many more. These players came to Manchester for a chance at the £70,000 prize money and to stick with a chance of winning the £1 million bonus, for winning the 28 matches for all of the British Open competitions.
This introduction of this new addition to the snooker season was praised all week long by competitors, with O’Sullivan telling me, “people have been asking for this for a while. The fans. The players. And finally, thankfully, they have listened.” Nothing was more special than when outsider and China’s own Wenbo Liang beat Englishman Judd Trump by 9 frames to 6 to win his first major title, and lifting the Steve Davis trophy in front of a sold out Event City Arena. He jumped for joy, when potting his final pink to guarantee the win and told us he was delighted to win, and that he is enjoying the snooker.
During the final itself Liang led going into the second session with a 2 frame cushion, but it was Trump who came flying out of the blocks, impressing with a break of 135 that reduced the deficit to just one frame. The response from Liang was strong, a big shot on the blue off the spot to open the gap back to 2. The response continued with a break of 115 and exhibition snooker to increase the gap, the score line now at 7-4. Just as Trump looks like folding, he comes out on top after a long safety play tussle to just do enough to maintain the two gap cushion going into the mid-session interval. On the return, Trump continues where he left off to continue the momentum, a break of 69 with Liang conceding to get within a single frame. Game on!
Things start to get nervy, with both players looking visibly edgy missing a string of simple shots. A cracking safety shot behind the green from Trump leaves Liang needing three attempts to hit the target red. Trump is able to make a break of 41 off the leave, but misses an easy red to allow Liang to take control of the frame, playing a blinding shot of the blue on the spot to bring the remaining red into play, the shot of the match so far. He is able to clean up and moves to one frame away from victory. Expecting Liang to feel the heat on his third major final appearance, a few missed pots from Trump allowing him to fire in a break of 79. He goes absolutely nuts in the arena, exciting the entire Event City venue into applause as he claims his first professional major title and his name on the Davis Trophy to be crowned winner of the inaugural English Open title.
The rest of the week entertained also. Notable moments include shock results, and the exit as some of the sports big names. O’Sullivan, Selby, Marco Fu and Murphy all exited the competition in the early stages, as did Neil Robertson who chucked away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to a player ranked well below him in the rankings. Alfie Burden’s 147 break was amazing, even if he was eliminated in the following frame. Ricky Walden, Mark Allen and John Higgins all had good showings reaching the latter stages of the tournament, with Stuart Bingham and eventual winner Liang contesting in the match of the tournament in their semi-final clash. In the end, this first of four nations series was a success and belonged to Liang.
However, what was clear was that there needed to be more marketing and advertising for this event. It wasn’t really advertised anywhere, with very few posters or flyers around the city, and there was nothing about it anywhere on the university campuses. Crowds were only around half full on average (apart from the final) leading to Ali Carter actually raising this issue on Twitter, questioning what had happened. In reality, the sport of snooker needs its profile raised. In a city such as Manchester, it simply cannot compete with the popularity of football, cricket, and rugby. Moving forward, here’s hoping that this English event will help do such a thing, and get snooker high on the agenda in sport once again.