The World Snooker Tour returns to a familiar setting next week at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, which provided behind closed doors refuge for the circuit during lockdown. This time a crowd will greet the best players on the planet for the sixth running of the BetVictor English Open.
You still have the chance to be there in Milton Keynes and witness a week of world class sport. Click here to book now for the event, which runs from November 1st to 7th.
Ahead of the action, here is a look back on the first five finals, which proved to be a mixture of one-sided brilliance and matches coming down to the wire. Five different winners have held aloft the Steve Davis Trophy so far…
2016 – Liang Wenbo 9-6 Judd Trump
The inaugural English Open final saw Liang Wenbo upset the odds, to defeat Judd Trump at Event City in Manchester. He became just the second player from mainland China after Ding Junhui to claim ranking silverware, they have since been joined by Yan Bingtao.
Liang was never behind in this title match and led for the entirety of the encounter from 2-2 onwards. However, he was faced with a Trump fightback when the Bristolian surged from 7-4 down to pull within a frame at 7-6.
The Ace in the Pack led 41-7 in frame 14, only for Liang to make a superb clearance of 62 to move within a frame of victory at 8-6.
A critical clearance of 39 then secured him the title. However, the celebrations started before the match ball blue had been deposited, with a pumped up Liang roaring out after potting the green and the brown. Following the conclusion of the match the Firecracker leapt in the air with joy.
“I’m very happy,” said Liang. “In the last two frames I concentrated on every shot and made two good breaks. Snooker is a very difficult game but if you don’t enjoy it you don’t play well. Judd put me under pressure but to go 8-6 ahead gave me more confidence.”
2017- Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-2 Kyren Wilson
A display of sheer brilliance from Ronnie O’Sullivan saw him storm to victory and claim the Steve Davis Trophy for the first and only time in his career so far.
There was little Kyren Wilson could do, bar admire the Rocket in full flow at the Barnsley Metrodome. O’Sullivan chalked up an astonishing 98% pot success rate and missed only six balls during the 11 frames played.
In total, O’Sullivan made four centuries and five other contributions over 50. He won the last six frames in just 70 minutes.
It was a first ranking title in 20 months for O’Sullivan, who was almost forced to pull out of the event due to an ankle injury sustained whilst running before the tournament. Elite sport psychiatrist Steve Peters was in his corner and present at the venue throughout much of the week.
“It is great to win another ranking title. I am my own worst critic at times but it was very, very good today,” said O’Sullivan. “I made a lot of good and important breaks, and felt good among the balls. I will keep driving myself on to reach a higher level.
“I am enjoying the challenge of hanging in there against these young players, but you play well if you have to – and I know what a good player Kyren is. The foot is ok, I suppose I have to give some credit to the trainers I have been wearing all week!”
2018 – Stuart Bingham 9-7 Mark Davis
Stuart Bingham came from behind to deny Mark Davis a maiden piece of ranking silverware at the K2 in Crawley.
It was the fifth of Bingham’s six career ranking titles so far and his first since the 2017 Welsh Open.
Defeat was a tough one to take for Hastings cueman Davis, who had reached his first ever ranking final after 27 years as a professional. However, he did land a memorable 6-1 defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals.
A commendable piece of sportsmanship in the tenth frame from Davis unfortunately proved to be a key turning point in the match. Davis was leading 5-4 and had a chance to move two, ahead when he called a foul on himself for touching the white.
In a hard-fought final, there was never more than one frame in it, until Bingham stepped up a gear from 7-6 down to win the last three frames.
“At 5-4 down I was thinking the worst,” admitted 2015 World Champion Bingham. “Fair play to Mark for owning up to the foul because I didn’t see it and the referee didn’t either. If he had gone 6-4 he could have stream-rollered me, the way he did against Ronnie (O’Sullivan) in the semi-finals. That got me back in the match. In the last three frames I scored very well. I’m over the moon to get my hands on the trophy.
“It was a very even match and I just got among the balls first in the last few frames and scored well. I felt nervous all day, I was trying too hard and couldn’t let myself go. But compared to the pressure of winning the world title, everything else seems easy so I have that experience to fall back on.”
2019 – Mark Selby 9-1 David Gilbert
Just like two years before, the English Open final provided a display of individual brilliance. This time it was Mark Selby who coasted to victory.
Selby missed only seven pots during a match which lasted just two hours and 50 minutes in total. It was an emphatic blitz to what was Selby’s first ever Home Nations title, he has since added a further two Scottish Open crowns.
Victory extended a streak which meant Selby had won his last eight ranking finals. He went on to increase that to 11, before the run was ended with defeat in the 2021 Shoot Out title match.
Gilbert, who described his opponent’s performance as a “masterclass, had a contrasting experience in finals. The result meant the Tamworth cueman had lost all four of his appearances in a ranking final. He rectified that unenviable record by winning the BetVictor Championship League earlier this season.
Selby had lost his world number one spot, which he had held for 49 consecutive months, to Judd Trump earlier that year. He admitted after the final that he had started to ask questions of himself.
“It’s amazing, I’m quite emotional,” admitted Selby. “Over the last 12 months, mentally it has been tough. I have been second guessing myself, questioning myself and wondering if I would win another tournament again. It was that bad. I was playing well in practice then in matches I have been crumbling and not showing anything, it was frustrating. To win a trophy is great in terms of getting the confidence back.
“I’m gutted for David because he’s a great player and an even better lad off the table. If I wasn’t in the final I probably would have been here supporting him. He keeps knocking on the door, it’s only a matter of time before he turns one of the finals into a win and when he does that I think he’ll win a lot more.”
2020 – Judd Trump 9-8 Neil Robertson
Judd Trump rallied from 7-4 down to defeat Australia’s Neil Robertson 9-8 in a thrilling final at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
It was world number one Trump’s first ranking victory of the season. He would go on to rack up a further four wins during the campaign to take his total to five.
It was a continuation of the dominance which took him to the top of the world rankings, having won a record six ranking crowns in the 2019/20 season.
The encounter was reminiscent of a classic Champion of Champions final which went the way of Robertson 10-9 a year earlier. They would go on to cross cues in another epic final just months later at the UK Championship, where Robertson won 10-9 on the final pink.
Robertson played just one shot in the deciding frame of this tie, which was the break off. Trump ruthlessly pounced by slotting in a long range red and composing a run of 114 from it to secure the Steve Davis Trophy.
“It was an unbelievable final,” said 2019 World Champion Trump. “I never felt in control because Neil played tremendous snooker and scored heavily. I nicked an important frame at 7-4. I really had to dig in and I’m proud of the way I held myself together and made the break in the last frame. I was just looking for a chance, and when Neil left me the red I had to go for it.
“Neil and I have a rivalry where we bring the best out of each other and put on great matches for the fans – hopefully we can have many more. To be level with Neil and Mark on 18 ranking titles is fantastic because they are two brilliant players. I really want to win every final I get to.”
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