The Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes hosts a revival. No, not a comeback tour from a nineties pop band, a first mixed doubles snooker event for over 30 years. 31 years ago to be exact, the tournament will be the first televised since 1991 in Hamburg, when Steve Davis and Allison Fisher teamed up to win the title.
A random draw was conducted pitting the top four ranked men and women’s players together. With all the women being on the main tour this season, that of course was a key cog in this whole idea.
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How will the tournament unfold?
The tournament will be played as a round-robin with four-frame matches, teams scoring a point for each frame won, followed by a final between the top-two placed teams. The team members will make alternate visits to the table rather than playing alternate shots.
The pairings are as follows:
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Reanne Evans
Judd Trump and Ng On Yee
Neil Robertson and Mink Nutcharut
Mark Selby and Rebecca Kenna
Four of the best from the Women's game
We should all have a ‘good idea’ who the four men are and their accomplishments in the sport. You might want to know more about the four ladies:
Reanne Evans – 12 times World Women’s champion. Most successful female player in snooker history – 58 ranking titles on the women’s tour overall and 90 consecutive victories in women’s matches between 2008 and 2011. Made an MBE in 2020.
Ng On Yee – Hong Kong native, three times World Women’s champion, and three times IBSF Women’s champion. Former World number one. Won two matches on the main tour in the last year beating Wu Yize and Ken Doherty.
Mink Nutcharat – 22-year-old Thai. Reigning Women’s World champion. She is the only woman known to have made a maximum break having accomplished the feat during a practice match in March 2019. Beat Mitchell Mann in Northern Ireland Open Qualifying in August for first win on the main tour.
Rebecca Kenna – World number 4 in the Women’s World rankings. Current English Women’s champion. Made a 92 break at Q School last year. Co owns CueSports Yorkshire in Keighley with her husband, Ashley.
Talented Trump tries his hand in doubles
Out of the four men, it’s only Trump that I can’t remember ever playing any type of moderately competitive doubles play in a cue sport, be it with a man or woman. He probably has locally, being brought up in such a competitive area in Bristol. I don’t see this as a straight up negative however he is the youngest of the four men and possibly experience in this discipline might be significant. Trump has been far more active this season that his rival men, and loves a new event, winning the inaugural Turkish Masters last season and the first European Masters in 2016.
I do feel he has a partner in On Yee who has a very good tactical brain, trained by former top 16 player, David Roe. That could compliment Trump’s thunderous potting ability. She’s no mug in the scoring charts either hitting four 80+ breaks on the main tour and holding her own taking three frames off Shaun Murphy, two off Ryan Day and a frame each off Essex pair Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham in the past year or so.
Two Snooker juggernauts join forces
With 19 world snooker titles between them, I think the most likely winners of this title is O’Sullivan and Evans. There are plenty of positives in their favour.
Firstly, they know each other very well and will have a good camaraderie. They are both managed by Jason Francis, who is chairman of the World Seniors Tour and created the Snooker Legends tour in 2009. This is possibly where they first crossed paths. Furthermore, Ronnie and Reanne play in many exhibitions together across the country and in mainland Europe and work as pundits for Eurosport.
When Evans has her game face on, and has practised hard, which undoubtedly is the case here, she is still the best women’s player around. The other significance in Evans’ favour is she has TV experience which the other three don’t. She might not have won in front of the cameras, but she sure has performed creditably.
At the 2019 Champion of Champions, she fought back from 3-0 down to Shaun Murphy to win the next three frames to force a decider. In last seasons British Open, she performed arguably her best performance on tour, losing 3-2 to ex partner, Mark Allen in a match she was a cannon away from winning 3-1. The match with Allen was a personal one for many reasons, yet she played with great composure and heart coming out the moral winner.
She has also triumphed in the World Mixed Doubles Championship on four occasions with Allen (2006), Robertson (2008) and Michael Holt (2009 & 2015). Growing up in the Staffordshire and West Midlands league, one of the country’s leading leagues, and playing for a team consisting of ex pros like Martin Clark, John Read and Andrew Highfield plus her own brothers Ryan and Richard, she knows exactly what team pressure is all about.
These are all attributes in her favour and not forgetting who she has in her corner, the current World champion, 21-times triple crown winner, the greatest player to have ever drawn breath, the mercurial ‘Rocket’ himself, Ronnie O’Sullivan. He hasn’t played a lot since his seventh World triumph in May, just a few short formats of the Championship league, though must be chomping at the bit to get cracking here and will try and play in exhibition mode.
They look on paper the best equipped partnership and even as 2/1 favourites, have a great chance of glory in Buckinghamshire.
The winning experience could bear fruit for Robertson
Robertson and Mink could be a potent force, not to be written off. Robertson, who hasn’t played since the World Championship in April, has an excellent record fresh and winning early in the season as an individual:
- 2009-10 won 2nd event.
- 2010-11 won 2nd event.
- 2013-14 won 1st event.
- 2014-15 won 1st event.
- 2016-17 won 1st event.
- 2017-18 won 2nd event.
- 2018-19 won 1st event.
- 2021-22 won 2nd event.
As mentioned, Robertson has experience in winning with Evans 14 years ago and has a really decent player alongside him in Mink, arguably the women with greatest potential in the sport. She practises daily at Vics Academy in Sheffield, home of triple crown champions, Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao. It’s a meteoric rise after only taking up the game 12 years ago at a snooker hall in Saraburi, a rural province outside Bangkok where her Mum happened to work. Like fellow snooker countrymen, James Wattana, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Noppon Saengkham, she has a calm persona and raw talent. I’m quite excited about her challenge here and in years to come.
Solid Selby can produce
Onto the final pairing, Selby and Kenna – the rank outsiders for the title. It’s well documented Selby has had mental health issues, and this could well be a nice distraction. It’s mad to think someone so mentally strong as Selby can have these hard life knocks but it displays the difference between on the table and off. He’s been playing a fair bit of 8-ball pool in the last year partnering his brother-in-law Gareth Potts in the Pairs Cup on the Ultimate Pool circuit. It’s unknown how Kenna, a promising footballer when young, will cope with this test though does have a bit of experience playing doubles in her local league in Yorkshire and at the Women’s European Championships she paired up with current top 10 player, Emma Parker.
There is a bet I like with this team and it’s for the highest team break of the event. I’m pleasantly surprised to see 5/1 on offer for Selby/Kenna to get the highest break. If this was just an event with the four men, Selby would be considerably shorter than 5/1 to net the high break prize so just because he has Kenna anchoring him, shouldn’t mean a great deal of difference in my opinion. Chances might be less fruitful here however it does depend on the alternate shot order as you would expect more chances will be created after the women player has played her shot.
Selby has only played 18 frames so far this season and bagged a 137 in a 5-2 loss to Yuan Sijun in Germany. A break in that region will be tough to beat. He’s struck a 140+ break in 13 of his last 16 seasons on tour too.
The last bet I like is the 9/10 on there being over 2.5 tournament centuries. The line here might be low. There are 24 frames guaranteed in the Round-Robin format then a best-of-seven final. Potentially 31 frames in total. With the best men in attendance, and the possibility the pockets will be a bit more generous for TV audiences, I think over 2.5 tons in total is more likely than unlikely especially as this event has an exhibition feel to it.