Judd Trump inflicted more final misery on John Higgins by winning a first Champion of Champions title on Sunday night.
The Juddernaut won an astonishing 10 of the last 11 frames played at the University of Bolton Stadium for a 10-4 victory to pocket the £150,000 first prize. With this demolition job the world No2 made it 10 wins in a row against world No7 Higgins, a run that includes the final of the 2019 Betfred World Championship.
The 32-year-old had previously lost finals against Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson in the tournament, bringing together the winners of the past 12 months. But next to his delight there was despair and agony for the 46-year-old Higgins, who was left reeling by an onslaught that only added to his recent demons.
The Scot has now lost in the final of the three last tournaments played, having gone down 9-8 to first Mark Allen at the Northern Ireland Open and then again to Neil Robertson at the English Open.
Higgins is a former winner of this prestigious event, and at 3-0 up another success had looked a real possibility. But this was another painful defeat coming after baring his soul at the English Open and claiming he could no longer handle the pressure at the top level.
Trump, after claiming a first title of the campaign, said: “It is an amazing feeling to finally get this one under my belt.
“People were saying I had been on a drought having not won a title for a few months, so it’s good to end that and any win against John a good one. He is someone I admired growing up.
“Any win against John in a final is special, early in my career he came back a few times to beat me and that experience has helped put me where I am today.
“To get this one relatively early in the season is good and now I can look to kick on.”
Higgins said: “Judd was too good tonight, he was awesome. Maybe at 3-1 in front if I was being hyper-critical I had a couple of chances and went walkabout for a few frames.
“But he blitzed me tonight. There was no effect from the late semi-final finish against Yan, and it has been a brilliant atmosphere all week in Bolton, one of the best in my career.
“Listen, it is an achievement to get to three finals in a row but it isn’t a great feeling – you want to win the titles. But I have lost to three great champions, and Judd is top of the tree.”
Trump began a warm favourite so it was unexpected when Higgins made a break of 73 in the opening frame to end the world No2’s run of 16 frames in a row – on his way to a 3-0 lead.
The Scot’s dynamic burst was all the more surprising since his 6-5 semi-final win over Yan Bingtao finished well after midnight even before his media duties. However, Trump is made of very stern stuff these days as such a serial recent winner, especially with the luxury of a best-of-19 frame match. He embarked on a winning sequence of five frames himself to lead 5-3, helped by breaks of 63, 62 and 61 – before Higgins kept in touch by taking the last frame of the afternoon session.
Trump, though, put his foot down at the start of the second, decisive evening session with a break of 74, and then added frame 11 to lead 7-4. The Juddernaut burgled frame 12 after trailing 47-0, before a break of 68 put him on the brink of victory. And another Higgins error in the next saw Trump swoop in to power over the line with a break of 59.
There will be little rest for snooker’s latest winner and Higgins, with the first major of the season – the UK Championship – starting at York’s Barbican Centre on Tuesday.
Trump will have an extra couple of days off to savour his success – or alternatively get back to the practice table – before he starts his campaign for a second UK title on Thursday, up against amateur David Lilley.
Lilley will also be coming into that match buoyed with some confidence having won the inaugural Q Tour tournament also on Sunday at the Castle Sports Bar in Brighton, beating China’s Si Jiahui 5-1. The new Q Tour is a secondary tour and pathway to the main tour, with two professional places available from the four events played.
Higgins is due to be playing his first match on Tuesday against former pro Michael Georgioiu, although at the time of writing it is possible that the World Snooker Tour authorities could take into account reaching the final in Bolton and his Sunday-night finish - and push his match back by a day or two.