With the 2023 Cazoo British Open just days away, we’ve taken a look back at some of the best finals in the history of an event which has played host to showdowns between generational greats and seen underdogs score stunning victories.
This year marks the 24th running of the British Open, which took a 17-year hiatus from the World Snooker Tour calendar between 2004 and 2021. Since its return, the trophy for the event has been named after legendary commentator Clive Everton. Here is a look back at five of the tournament’s most significant finals from past and present.
1996 – Nigel Bond 9-8 John Higgins
A nerve-shredding 1996 British Open final saw Nigel Bond clinch his first and only ranking title, after he defeated John Higgins 9-8 after one of the most exciting deciding frames in snooker history.
The Derbyshire cueman, who was runner-up to Stephen Hendry at the World Championship a year earlier, looked to have lost the decider to Higgins when the Scot left him requiring a snooker in the final frame.
However, despite trailing 69-0 with just 67 left on the table, Bond got the snooker he required and took the tie down to a fiercely contested exchange on the colours. As they reached the final two balls, Higgins spurned a chance to win it on the pink, before Bond deposited it and cut an extremely thin black to secure his maiden title.
“It must to have been one of the best finishes there has been to a final and for me it has been the highlight of my career. Reaching the final of the World Championship is obviously a standout, but the British Open is top because I was the champion,” said the now 57-year-old Bond.
25 years ago Nigel Bond claimed British Open glory in hugely dramatic circumstances
After needing a snooker in the decider with John Higgins, he battled back to clinch the title 9-8 on the final black.
THIS MATCH WINNING POT IS pic.twitter.com/QtMF5opU4G
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) July 29, 2021
2003 – Stephen Hendry 9-6 Ronnie O’Sullivan
Just months earlier Stephen Hendry’s cue, which he won all seven of his World Championship titles with, was left in pieces after being broken on a flight home from Bangkok.
The Scot had to push all of that to one side when he faced his great rival Ronnie O’Sullivan in the title match at the British Open. He hammered home breaks of 135, 135, 121, 95, 78, 61 and 50 on his way to an impressive 9-6 win and appeared to be playing the sort of spellbinding snooker that fans around the world were accustomed to.
“I was capable of this sort of form with the old cue,” said Hendry. “This answers once and for all whether the new cue is any good and whether I’ll play well with it.
“To win the second tournament I’ve entered with it proves there’s nothing wrong.”
Unfortunately for Hendry that turned out to be the 35th of his 36 ranking titles to date. He has only had one tournament win since, at the 2005 Malta Cup.
2004 – John Higgins 9-6 Stephen Maguire
This was the last edition of the British Open before the event disappeared from the calendar for nearly two decades and it saw two Scottish players do battle in the title match.
It was a hugely significant victory in the career of 31-time ranking event winner John Higgins. The result ended a streak of six consecutive defeats in finals.
At the time Higgins was on standby to pull out of the tournament should his pregnant wife Denise go into labour. She didn’t and Higgins managed to keep his focus to land the title, crafting breaks of 144, 107 and 100 on his way to a 9-6 defeat of Stephen Maguire.
“That’s probably the most important title I’ve ever won,” Higgins said.
“When I first started winning tournaments 10 years ago they came in a steady stream but when you haven’t won one for three years you start to doubt yourself.”
2021 – Mark Williams 6-4 Gary Wilson
The British Open finally returned in 2021 and it was Welsh legend Mark Williams who scored the 24th ranking event win of his career.
It was the second time that Williams has lifted the British Open trophy, 24 years after his first in 1997 when he defeated Stephen Hendry 9-2 in the final.
Gary Wilson was bidding for his first ever ranking title and was in contention at 4-4 heading into the closing stretch of the match. However, Williams showed his experience and took two on the bounce, including a break of 115, to capture the title. Wilson has since claimed his maiden ranking event win at last season’s Scottish Open, while Williams is yet to add to his 24 titles.
“I honestly thought my career was finished five years ago. Another five years on and I’m 46 years old and number eight in the rankings,” said Williams. “I am a little bit fortunate to win it really. There were two, maybe three matches that I should have lost. I managed to win them and it was as if the tournament was destined for me.
“Everything seemed to go my way. Each time I looked like I’d get beat, someone would miss something and I’d do good clearances at the right times. I played really solidly tonight. I missed a few balls, but overall I played really well.
2022 – Ryan Day 10-7 Mark Allen
Last year’s event saw Ryan Day win his fourth ranking title – and the biggest of his career – as he came from 7-6 down to beat Mark Allen 10-7 in the final.
Welshman Day had previously won the Riga Masters, Gibraltar Open and Shoot Out, and has beaten John Higgins at the Crucible, but admitted that his British Open victory was undoubtedly his greatest achievement in snooker.
Allen would go on to be Player of the Year and rack up event wins at the Northern Ireland Open, UK Championship and World Grand Prix, but this was Day’s moment.
Following a gruelling 6-5 win over Robbie Williams in the semi-finals, Day was so despondent with his performance that he suggested the end of his career could be near. A brilliant performance in the final changed all of that.
“Last night I was worried that the match would all be done and dusted early in Mark’s favour, because of how badly I played in the semi-finals, it could have been a massacre. But I slept well, changed my mindset and played a lot better.
“I have had some horrific defeats and played some awful matches in the last few years and I was wondering whether the end was near. But a win like this gives me at least another couple of years with a cue in my hand and hopefully there is more to come. Winning a big event like this shoots you up the rankings and I need to capitalise.”