World Mixed Doubles needs a format change after testing weekend in Manchester

Luca Brecel and Reanne Evans beat Mark Selby and Rebecca Kenna in Sunday’s final (Picture: WST)

Reanne Evans and Luca Brecel lifting the trophies at the World Mixed Doubles on Sunday evening was a nice scene to end a weekend in Manchester that had been a bit of a struggle for the players and fans alike.

The tournament arrived on the calendar last season, teaming the top four players in the world with the top four female players in a bid to showcase their skills and give the women’s game a boost in publicity.

That first event in Milton Keynes produced some memorable moments, three centuries were scored, Mink Nutcharut produced a brilliant 74 clearance and she won the tournament with her partner Neil Robertson in pretty dramatic style after losing their first two matches.

This season it was not so good. That is not to take anything away from the winners, or any of the players involved, but the doubles format is proving a struggle.

All eight players involved found it difficult to find any rhythm and breaks were very hard to come by, with long, scrappy frames leading to long, scrappy matches which were a tough watch at times.

Evans described the first game against Mink and Robertson as ‘pulling teeth’ and there were times later on Saturday night that felt like that too, with the crowd in Manchester thinning out before play had finished.

Clearly the female players don’t play at the same standard as the men, who are all world champions, but it is more the doubles format that seems to be the problem than anyone letting a side down.

World champion Brecel told Metro on Saturday night: ‘Every time you get a chance you feel under pressure to make something and get something but it doesn’t happen.’

Mark Selby, who reached the final with Rebecca Kenna, added: ‘It’s tough. To get any momentum is tough. You’re getting one shot in every four, then you might not even have a pot on so it’s a safety, you’re hoping for a pot once every eight goes.’

Evans explained the day after lifting the trophy: ‘I think everyone struggled to be honest and I think the format leans towards that a bit.

‘You can’t get any rhythm and then you’re under pressure straight away. It just shows how normal it is for all players, not just the women who aren’t used to that environment and that money, but the top players as well.’

Without calling for a knee-jerk reaction, it does seem like a tweak to the format is required, because the admirable aim of promoting the women’s game should still be on the agenda and the event should definitely remain on the calendar.

Playing in a format that is proving difficult for players to produce anything like their best cannot be the right way to showcase the talents of the top female players in the world.

BetVictor World Mixed Doubles Championship - Day 2

Neil Robertson and Mink Nutcharut were champions last season (Picture: Getty Images)

It will be important for something to be done because interest from the top players could wane. Ronnie O’Sullivan played last season but not this time around and Judd Trump suggested he might not be back again unless things change.

‘I don’t know if I’ll play in it again, not unless they change the format,’ he told Metro.

‘It needs to be be more individual, I think, maybe one frame with both playing. We could do singles, the girls vs the boys, stuff like that. It’s too hard work, I think. It was the same last year, the games don’t go good.’

There are plenty of options and tournament organisers can get their thinking caps on before next season starts in June.

Individual frames between the teams with less doubles seems like the obvious choice, while a shot clock has been suggested.

‘I think it can be tweaked, I’m not sure how,’ said Evans. ‘A few people have said they enjoy it, they think it should stay, maybe get some more teams in. There could be individual frames, then a doubles, then a scotch [alternate shot], mix it up a bit. If you get a frame to yourself you might be able to get a bit of rhythm.

‘I’m open to any suggestion that can keep the event and encourage people to keep watching and playing. I think it can change and it might be for the better.’

Robertson made his own suggestion on social media, writing: ‘Really enjoyed the tactical side of things at times but speaking to Mark and Judd we all concurred that sometimes going an hour before getting half a chance to pot a couple of balls in a row was very hard to get anything going.

‘That was nobody’s fault btw just the tough side of playing a shot out of every 4 and sometimes a lot longer.

‘I think a 3 frames match in groups. Men vs each other and the women vs each other one frame and then a doubles frame at the end.’

There are clearly other ways to set up the event, it will just take a bit of thinking and the tournament can grow in the years to come.

However sticky some of the frames got, it was a brilliant moment on Sunday as 12-time women’s world champion Evans got hold of the trophy and picked up more prize money (£30,000) than she did for any of her dozen world titles.

She said: ‘I struggled a bit, but being on TV, being a winner again, lifting a trophy, being alongside some legends, partnering the world champion, it’s what everyone dreams of doing so yeah, I’m thrilled.’

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