Barry Hearn had announced the creation of the Home Nations Series in 2015, but they were effectively played for the first time in 2016/17.
The four tournaments – English Open (Steve Davis Trophy), Northern Ireland Open (Alex Higgins Trophy), Scottish Open (Stephen Hendry Trophy) and Welsh Open (Ray Reardon Trophy) – have identical formats. It’s best of seven up to the last 16 included, best of nine in the QF, best of 11 in the SF and best of 17 in the Final. It’s a flat draw, with the 128 at the venue – no qualifiers – and the draw is random, except for the top 32 who are seeded (top 16 originally). There is a £1000000 bonus for the player who would manage to win all four events in the same season. Now, the concensus is that this is never gonna happen.
With such a format, many predicted shocks and surprise winners. Here is what happened until now:
Except in the first two events, it’s been all the usual suspects lifting the trophies.
One of the distinctive features of the series, is the “Moving Day”, the Thursday when two rounds are played and 32 become just 8. The series is broadcasted by Eurosport; they do a very nice job of it, both in the studio and in commentary. Ronnie and Jimmy White are part of the team when they are not playing.
The first two events produced first time winners. Here is what it meant to them…
It was in 2016 as well that Mark Selby won his second World Title.
Mark Selby played no less than 109 matches that year, of which he won 84 (77%). He reached the final of an event six times, winning five out of six:
- the 2016 Gdynia Open
- the 2016 World Championship (beating Ding by 18-14 in the final)
- the 2016 Paul Hunter Classic
- the 2016 International Championship (beating Ding in the final)
- the 2016 UK Championship (beating Ronnie by 10-7 in the final)
He also reached the final of the Shanghai Masters where he was beaten by … Ding. Amazingly, Ding Junhui played three 15-reds snooker finals that year, and faced Mark Selby in all three! Ding won the 2016 6-reds World Championship.
Ding has always a lot of pressure on his shoulder at the World Championship, the only big title eluding him. It was even worse that year, when he reached the final. He had an absolute nightmare in the first session: he trailed by 6-0 and did really well to take the last two frames of the session. From then on the frames were shared, but Ding never managed to close the gap completely.
Ronnie’s 2016 year was a mixed bag: he won over 80% of the matches he played, reached no less than six finals, but won only two of them
- the 2016 Championship League Snooker – Runner-up
- the 2016 Masters – Winner
- the 2016 Welsh Open – Winner
- the 2016 European Open – Runner-up
- the 2016 Champion of Champions – Runner-up
- the 2016 UK Championship – Runner-up
and yes… that’s when he did THAT 146 against Barry Pinches in the first round.
Ronnie was beaten by Barry Hawkins that year at the Crucible, in the last 16. But the real drama happened in the first round.
Ronnie had a breakdown after beating David Gilbert. Here is what he explained to Desmond Kane (Eurosport) a few months later. He was unable to do his post-match press conference and spent several days in hospital; he showed a lot of courage to come back and play his last 16 match. He still took that match to a decider. He had 11 breaks over 50 in it, including 4 centuries, he outscored his opponent, Barry Hawkins, but still lost as he wasn’t able to win the tactical frames.