Yesterday evening, in Wuxi, Ding Junhui’s hone town, the China A team, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo, won the World Cup. They beat England by 4-3 in the final, after England had got the better of the defending champions, China B, Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao.
China A Win Little Swan World Cup
China won the Snooker World Cup for the third time in a row by beating England 4-3 in the final in Wuxi.
Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo of China A came from 3-1 down to win the last three frames against English duo Judd Trump and Barry Hawkins in an exciting conclusion to the tournament, which started out with 24 teams.
Ding and Liang took the World Cup for their nation in 2011, then in 2015 the trophy went to the B team of Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao. Now it’s a hat-trick of titles as home favourites Ding and Liang claimed the $200,000 first prize to the delight of their fans.
It’s Ding’s first silverware since the 2016 Shanghai Masters and Liang’s first since the 2016 English Open.
Trump cleared from yellow to pink to win the opening frame for England, then Ding beat Hawkins with a break of 68 to level. England won the doubles frame then Hawkins beat Liang for 3-1.
Ding made a 69 to close to 3-2 then a tense 40-minute doubles frame came down to the colours, with England missing chances for victory as China made it 3-3.
Ding and Trump stepped forward to play the deciding frame and it was 12-time ranking event winner Ding who dominated, making breaks of 59 and 29 to seal victory.
Ding said: “I have a pretty decent head-to-head record against Judd. In a deciding frame I don’t think I’ll lose to anyone. I was playing with great confidence, apart from the red I missed in the last frame. But we won in the end.
“I’m so glad to have won this in front of my home crowd, especially as it’s the World Cup title. Both of today’s matches were tough. Liang played well even when we where 2-0 down this afternoon (against Thailand). We hope this tough win can leave everyone a great memory.
“Anywhere in China the fans give me massive courage. I used to worry about performing here but I’m enjoying my people’s passion now, and they give me the motivation to play every shot well.”
Liang said: “Tonight I didn’t play well so I think I put a lot of pressure on Ding. But what he did was reassuring. It’s a comfortable partnership between us and there was good chemistry.”
Hawkins said: “It was tough, we both had chances, especially me at 3-2. My timing disappeared and under pressure it’s hard to get it back. But we’ve had a great week and enjoyed it.”
Trump added: “The whole World Cup has been very enjoyable for everyone with a lot of close games. We could have gone out in the semi-finals. I’m happy to have been involved and hopefully I’ll be back next time.”
Earlier in the semi-finals, China A saw off Thailand 4-2, while England edged out China B 4-3, with Hawkins beating Zhou Yuelong in the decider.
Congratulations to the Champions!
A few more personal thoughts about this competition…
The final was competed between 4 players, all in the top 16, with Liang, currently n° 11, the lowest ranked out there. Indeed the other three were all in the top 5. This is proof, once again, that it doesn’t really matter what format a competition is played in, the better players will (almost) always come on top.
The teenagers pair, Zhou and Yan did a very good job in their defence of the title. The pressure was on them and they reached the semi finals, only narrowly losing to England, on paper the strongest team in the draw.
The round robin stage, competed over 5 days felt like dragging it a bit to me. There was little suspense in most groups and some teams never had a chance which is a bit of a pity. But the alternative is to restrict the competition to a smaller number of teams which would somehow defeat the very purpose of a “World Cup”. Not sure what can be done about this. As it happens, once we reached the QF, first knock-out round, there was only one amateur left in the competition, Jeff Jacobs from Belgium, and Jeff might be unknown to most of you, but, at just 21, he’s the Belgian National Champion, and was three times the Belgian Junior Champion. Belgium has history in snooker and a very good junior scene too. Jeff played really well in Wuxi.
Thailand was the strongest team at the group stage and it was good to see Noppon Saengkham in action, along with Thepchaya Un-noh. Both are good to watch, and very good players. It’s not by chance that they reached the SF. Regarding the group stage, Mark Allen reflected that a team could win all their matches and still be eliminated. That’s true indeed: just think about the situation where one team wins all five matches by 3-2 but two other teams win three matches by 5-0 … However I can see the rationale behind the current system: the fact that every frame counts combined with different prize money depending on where you finish in a group aims at making sure everyone will try to the last ball.
Finally, Neil Robertson’s form … remains a concern.