Liang Wenbo became the inaugural winner of the Coral English Open by beating Judd Trump 9-6 in the final in Manchester, winning his first ranking title.
Liang led throughout the final, and fended off a late rally from Trump, the crucial moment coming in the 14th frame when he made a brilliant clearance to go 8-6 ahead. Soon afterwards the player nicknamed The Firecracker was exploding with exuberant celebrations as he potted the winning balls, before lifting the new Steve Davis Trophy and pocketing a cheque for £70,000.
The 29-year-old could be in line for a far bigger prize later in the season as victory in the other three Home Nations events – the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open and Welsh Open – would land him a massive £1 million bonus.
But for now Liang can celebrate becoming the only player from mainland China other than Ding Junhui to win a world ranking title. His previous career highlights include winning an Asian Tour event in 2013 and the World Cup for China alongside Ding in 2011. But this is clearly his best moment on the baize and he’s rewarded with a leap of eight places in the world rankings to number 12, as well as a place in next month’s Champion of Champions.in Coventry.
Liang’s two previous ranking finals were the 2009 Shanghai Masters when he lost 10-5 to Ronnie O’Sullivan and last year’s UK Championship when he was beaten by Neil Robertson by the same scoreline. This time he faced another of snooker’s top stars, and one who had won his last 14 consecutive matches, but this time Liang rose to the occasion with an excellent performance.
Trump, having won last week’s European Masters, missed out on the chance to become the 11th player in snooker history to win back to back ranking titles. He receives £30,000 and remains third in the world.
Liang led 5-3 after the first session having compiled breaks of 95, 95, 76 and 92. Bristol’s 27-year-old Trump started the evening session strongly with a break of 132, but Liang hit back with 84 and 98 to lead 7-4. Frame 12 came down to the last two reds, and a missed attempt at a long pot from Liang allowed Trump to close the gap to 7-5 at the interval.
Trump’s fight-back continued as a run of 50 drew him within one frame. And he led 41-7 in frame 14, only for Liang to make a tremendous 62 clearance from an unpromising initial position, which moved him within one of victory at 8-6.
Liang had two early scoring chances in the 15th frame but missed one red to a top corner with the rest and another to a baulk corner. Trump made 46 to lead by 15 points before leaving a tricky red along the top cushion in the jaws of a pocket. And that proved his last shot as Liang held his nerve to make a match-winning 39, jumping high in delight as each of the last few colours went down.
“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.
“I have to say thank you to Ronnie O’Sullivan because I practise with him and eat with him every day. I have learned a lot from him over the past two years and he’s my best friend. Yesterday he told me to look back at my UK Championship final last year and see what I could learn from it. I knew I needed to be more calm and controlled this time.
“I’m going to forget about this victory now and keep going in the next one. I always learn from every experience.”
Liang also mentioned a chance meeting with legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson in his hotel yesterday, adding: “He said he would be watching my matches and he told me to concentrate.”
Trump, who remains stuck on six career ranking titles, from 12 finals, said: “I was chasing him throughout the day but I should have made it 7-7 and if I had done that it might have been a different result. I should have turned the screw and grabbed control of the match. I felt a bit of pressure and I was taking too much time, when I should have just got on with it.
“Liang was playing with freedom and his long potting was unbelievable. It’s good to have another winner from China.
“I’m annoyed not to get back-to-back ranking titles but winning 14 matches in a row has given me confidence and I will try to start a new run now. When you lose a final it gives you another kick because you don’t want to feel like that again. It’s a good time to be in form with so many tournaments coming up.”
The next Home Nations event is the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast from November 14-20, tickets are on sale now, for details click here.