The English Open was the first tournament of this season's Home Nations Series. Let's take a moment for a brief geography class. The UK is composed by four nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Putting it simply, these are a series of 4 ranking tournaments, each one held in a different nation. 2020 is an exception, though. In fact, everything has been exceptional this year, so most tournaments are being held in Milton Keynes. Now back to the subject. The most prolific winners are Trump, Selby, Bingham, and Robertson, each one with two titles to their snooker CV. To grab the trophy, a player has to win 4 best-of-7 matches (R1 to R4), one best-of-9, one best-of-11 and one best-of-17 (the final). Without further ado, this is how the Matchroom.Live English Open unfolded:
Mark Williams withdrew from the English Open. The reigning world champion struggled in the beginning, but managed to win his first match against amateur Brian Ochoiski. The same applies to Ding Junhui, who was 3-0 down. A very angry Jimmy White directed his frustration to a rest shaft. Jimmy lost 4-1 to Michael Holt. Top player Maguire lost in his first match, too. Ryan Day and Mark Selby are through to R2. Kyren Wilson had a tough time playing Dominic Dale. Needing snookers, Kyren managed to get a free ball to win the sixth frame and the match. Shaun Murphy also made it to R2, but not without suffering a decider. Louis Heathcote had every opportunity to beat Trump 4-1, but Trump took the game to a decider and won. Higgins also secured his place in R2 having beaten James Cahill in a high-quality match.
It was not easy, but Niel Robertson won his second match against Mark Joyce. Judd was still in the tournament despite suffering another decider against Yuan Sijun. Ronnie O’Sullivan stole the fourth frame against Ryan Day to lead 3-1. Brilliant pots on the green, brown and blue saw The Rocket finish the match off. Shaun Murphy lost to David Lilley in a decider. Murphy has not been able to practice much lately due to lockdown restrictions.
Mark Selby won the match against Liang Wenbo in a decider. Judd Trump had to dig himself out of yet another hole — this time against Michael Holt. It was the third decider Trump faced in the tournament. Top players Barry Hawkins, Anthony McGill, Kyren Wilson, Ding Junhui, Niel Robertson and John Higgins reached the last 16. Robertson played solid snooker, making two century breaks against Mark Davis. Matthew Stevens played his A game to down The Rocket. Stevens won 4-1 with 98% pot success. O'Sullivan’s highest break was an amateurish 41. In contrast, Stevens made four 50+ breaks and a century.
Judd Trump raised his game to lead Gary Wilson 3-1 in a top-class match. He cleared the table to steal frame 4 and won the very next frame to reach the quarter-finals. In the meantime, John Higgins, Kyren Wilson and Zhou Yuelong trashed Ding Junhui, Ben Woollaston and Andrew Higginson, respectively. In another clash, Barry Hawkins failed to score when he had chances, allowing Niel Robertson a 4-2 win. Mark Selby faced his third decider in a row, and he was as successful as Trump, winning the match against Iran's Hossein Vafaei. Matthew Stevens couldn't sustain the form that he showed in R3 and lost to Welshman Jak Jones in a decider. Jones reached the first quarter-final of his career. Finally, Robbie Williams downed McGill 4-1 to secure his place in the last 8.
Selby started a little bit slow against China's Zhou Yuelong, but soon emerged victorious (5-2). Selby is going to do some serious damage this season. Given his hunger for titles and the fact that he is motivated beyond measure, that number one spot might well be within his grasp. John Higgins built a healthy lead against Jak Jones. Soon afterwards, Higgins downed the Welshman by winning 5-1 and secured his place in the last 4. In a clash of young titans, Trump was fast to put a frame on the board by making two half-centuries against Kyren Wilson. Being 2-0 down, Kyren replied with a break of 84 and then Trump made his first century of the tournament to lead 3-1. Trump won the match 5-1 making a second century break in frame 6. On the other table, Niel Robertson was in scoring mood. He made the highest break of the tournament (140) to lead Robbie Williams 3-1. Robertson compiled another pair of centuries to win the match 5-2.
A very strong line-up composed of four world champions. Mark Selby and Niel Robertson were up first. The defending champion Selby made a century break when losing 2-0 to put his first frame on the board. Selby then leveled the match. After the mid-session interval, Robertson took the lead once more, and then made a clearance of 134 to extend his lead to 4-2. Selby pulled one frame back with a break of 70 and Robertson replied with another century. The Australian had a chance to close the match but the stubborn Selby managed to win the ninth and the tenth frame to force a decider. In the end, Robertson gave himself a chance and booked his place in the final with a break of 92. The second match had Higgins leading Trump 1-0. The cue ball went in off in the second frame, which allowed Trump to level 1-1. Higgins won the third frame and Trump made a century to level the match once again. Higgins responded with a century of his own, and Trump leveled the match once more by winning frame 6. Higgins took the lead again with another century. Trump reversed the pattern, however, winning 3 frames on the spin and securing his place in the final. Higgins had the first chance in frame 10, but made a foul that Trump took advantage of.
An exciting final between two players at the peak of their powers. The form that Trump displayed in the last season seems to be coming back, and Robertson has been very consistent lately. The player who wins will be the first to conquer 3 Home Nations Titles. There is going to be a new name in the list of Steve Davis Trophy winners. The former winners were Liang Wenbo, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stuart Bingham and Mark Selby. As I’m writing this post, the match is pretty tight, with both players playing well. It’s hard to pick a winner, but I think Trump will prevail. In fact, this could be the first of many titles for Trump in the season. His number one spot in the rankings shall remain safe for seasons to come. The only threat at the moment is Selby, in my opinion. In the end, it doesn’t matter if one is using a titanium ferrule and/or a fancy chalk. Hard work, skillset, dedication and strength of will are the prerequisites to be (and to stay) at the top. And Trump has all of that in abundance.
Featured images credit: wst.tv