Finals

Wonderful Liang Wenbo Wins English Open

Liang Wenbo captured his maiden ranking event title at the English Open after a superb 9-6 victory over Judd Trump in Manchester.

Liang Wenbo Riga

Liang was the world under-21 champion in 2005.

In doing so, the Chinese no.2 has become just the fourth Asian ever to win a ranking event – joining snooker royalty from the continent in James Wattana, Ding Junhui and Marco Fu.

Liang, who pocketed a neat £70,000 for the triumph in front of a large crowd at EventCity, is also the last man in the running for the £1 million Home Nations series bonus.

To claim that unlikely prize, the 29 year-old will have to continue his run with success in each of the next three Home Nations tournaments in Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff.

That’s for the future, though, as at present Liang can simply celebrate finally joining the illustrious club of ranking event winners after 11 years as a professional.

Everyone knows about his special talent but his enigmatic personality has sometimes encroached on his ability to perform well on a consistent basis.

His triumph on Sunday came in his third appearance in a final of this status after defeats in the 2009 Shanghai Masters and the UK Championship of last year, but it has been rare to see him feature at the business end of competitions.

However, in the final Liang represented a much more focused and composed competitor as he let his pedigree on the baize finally do the talking.

Trump was going for a second successive title after his European Masters victory seven days ago and was the outright favourite before the outset of the best of 17 showdown.

Yet, it was Liang who got off to a flier as a brace of wonderful 95 breaks helped him to establish an early lead.

He could have taken the next two as well but began to miss a few balls to allow Trump in for an unlikely reprieve and a relieved 2-2 scoreline at the mid-session interval.

The respite did wonders for Liang as he took advantage of some misfortune from his opponent to capitalise with runs of 76 and 92 to regain his two frame cushion, before extending that to three with a spectacular double on a re-spotted black.

Trump, to his credit, never stopped fighting and perhaps tried to draw on the experience of their World Championship encounter back in April when the Englishman fought back from 7-3 down to prevail 10-8.

The 27 year-old won the last frame of the first session with a 52 and duly knocked in a wonderful 132 upon the game’s resumption to briefly threaten pulling level.

Liang wasn’t having any of it, though, failing to show many signs of nerves as he compiled breaks of 84 and 98 to again pull clear.

At this stage, it was punch and counter punch with Trump responding once more to pull it back to 7-6 down.

The former world no.1 had a golden opportunity to finally get on even terms but a gutsy 62 clearance sent his challenger to the brink of victory.

Despite some understandably shaky wobbles with the winning line in sight, Liang eventually held himself together before an elaborate celebration as he sank the final colours.

It was a disappointing conclusion to what was otherwise a brilliant couple of weeks for Trump but nobody can really deny that Liang deserved this success.

To add to his moment, he had the honour of being presented the new Steve Davis Trophy by the six-time world champion himself.

The first leg of the Home Nations series reaches its climax then with a very hit and miss feel to how it has been perceived.

The million pound topic has been a fun addition to the regular conversation throughout the campaign, while Liang provided two compelling displays in his semi-final and final to capture the crown.

However, the crowd levels most of the week were disappointing while the format left a lot to desired – especially midweek when scheduled encounters began hours late due to a backlog of ties.

Still, Liang Wenbo won’t mind as he finally has his name etched on a ranking event piece of silverware.

A short break in the calendar this week with nothing now until the International Championship starts in just over a week in China.

Liang will certainly return to his homeland in a buoyant mood.

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