ENGLISH OPEN. IN SNOOKER THERE WAS A BIG THREE, AS IN TENNIS. THERE’S NO RONNIE O’SULLIVAN IN IT.
More recently, snooker was compared to women’s tennis because of unpredictability: leaders regularly stumbled, almost every tournament there were sensations. Players outside the top 16 knocked out stars, but rarely developed success and almost never got out of the middle of the rankings.
One of the main examples is 24-year-old James Cahill, who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of the 2019 World Cup as an amateur, but has not risen above 76th place since then. However, this season the situation is changing. Favorites dominate again – it begs comparison not with the WTA, but with the ATP, where for many years almost undivided rule Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The Big Three also appeared in the snooker season 2020/21, with the Spaniard, Serb and Swiss Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby. Each of them stands out both statistically and in style. At the European Masters, Robertson reached the quarterfinals, Trump reached the semifinals, and Selby took the title, beating Martin Gould in the main match in recent months.
At the English Open, all three kept their form: Robertson defeated Selby only in the semifinals and then lost to Trump in the deciding frame of the final. Symbolically, the victory in the second-ranking tournament of the season brought Judd the 18th ranking title – on this indicator he equaled with Selby and Robertson.
It is also important how all three performed during the tournament. Trump stayed three times a step away from relegation in the first three rounds, but consistently won 1-3 against Luis Hitcoute, Yuan Syjun and Michael Holt. In the late stages, Ace defeated the last World Cup finalist Kyren Wilson and withstood a fight with John Higgins. A series of comebacks with outsiders and a confident game against the tops reminded of Judd’s progress over the past two years – from being too aggressive and naive talent, who could not realize the potential, he turned into a mental giant. Trump plays a variety of and pragmatic – sometimes reminiscent of himself five years ago, and sometimes exhausting his opponent with a win-win.
Unsurprisingly, matches between any rivals from this trio are guaranteed to turn into a battle. In the first Home Nations final, Neal led 7-4, but Trump took four frames in a row and stopped one step away from victory. Even in such a situation, the lanky blond did not flinch, made a hundred and restored equality again.
In just one week, Robertson made 12 points, including a 140-point streak that was the biggest at the English Open. However, skill in attack is only one of the components of Neil’s success, as in the case of his competitors. After the defeat in the semi-finals, Selby noted that almost the most important quality of the champion is to make a result, even when the game is not going, and all three have developed this skill as much as possible.