Walker The Talker: Second Seed Judd Trump Is One Of Snooker’s Great Entertainers

Heading into the World Championships, the Bristolian is the sport's main man right now
10:00, 15 Apr 2021

And so to snooker’s current main man. World number one Judd Trump has been a revelation over the last three seasons. Not since Stephen Hendry in the 1990s have we seen one player dominate so consistently and for so long.

Since beating Ronnie O’Sullivan to the Northern Ireland Open in the autumn of 2018, the Bristolian has amassed 14 ranking titles in just 29 months, including his sensational world title in 2019 with which he completed the sport’s Triple Crown (having also won the Masters four months earlier).

Six titles last season was yet another major record breaking milestone for a player who has matured immensely on and off the table since making his crucible debut as a 17-year-old in 2007, before storming to a maiden final four years later and succumbing to John Higgins in a classic showdown.

I can vividly remember when he became world number one for the first time in October 2012. We were in Chengdu for the inaugural International Championship, an exciting time for all involved in the sport. His victory there over Neil Robertson was enough to see him go top of the pile temporarily and in some ways I think that accolade came too early.

For the following five seasons he was picking up the odd title here and there, but it’s fair to say he also spent time enjoying the cars, nights out and other trappings which often come with the high achievements of young sportsmen and women.

In amongst the fun years, at some stage the penny dropped for Trump that with the amount of tournaments Barry Hearn was laying on, he had the chance to break records, set himself up for life financially and leave his mark on the sport he has loved since he was first old enough to pick up a cue.

A combination of three factors were hugely helpful. His brother Jack moving to be with him in Essex, eye surgery and returning to the life of a single man having been in a relationship…quite some hat trick of change. Then came Northern Ireland two and a half years ago and he hasn’t looked back. 

With all the success he’s enjoyed since, it’s sometimes easy to underestimate the work ethic he has employed to reach these dizzying new heights. When we spoke at the Betfred Masters in January 2019 he told me he had only taken two days off over the whole Christmas period. Christmas Day itself and New Year’s Day. I remember being struck by the maturity of that commitment and that attitude has reaped huge rewards for him and the whole family.

Thanks to another five title haul so far this season (English Open, Northern Ireland Open, World Grand Prix, German Masters and the Gibraltar Open) if he does nothing more than win his first round match at the Crucible, he is guaranteed to remain world number one at the start of next season, even when his 500,000 ranking points (for the title two years ago) come off at the conclusion of this campaign.    

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That underlines the extent to which he’s been the dominant force on the Tour and explains why he is arguably favourite to join an illustrious list of players to become multiple world champions. It all sounds plausible and there’s every chance it will pan out like that.

But the path of true greatness doesn't always run that smoothly or predictably, otherwise we all wouldn’t be as glued as we are to the Betfred Championships each and every year. In amongst the great success, there have been signs that maybe the relentless pursuit of excellence and months on the road have left the star performer needing a break. Physically and mentally.

He bowed out to Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in the third round of the Welsh open two months ago and then lost a tight decider against Stuart Bingham in the first round of the Players Championships a week later.

I was working for ITV that week in Milton Keynes and whilst we were waiting to go into record for his losing post match interview, Judd seemed out of sorts. He was agitated, emotional and for a split second I thought he was going to cry. Happily he later confirmed he was fine and proved it by winning in Gibraltar so comfortably the following month.

But the fact remains that by winning and playing so much, so consistently, throughout the whole season (two runner-up finishes and two semis, as well as the five titles), he has played a huge volume of snooker and I think whether he says so or not, he needs a proper rest at the end of this Championship.

So has he got one more major run left in the locker? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

Last year he succumbed to the Crucible curse of no first time champion being able to successfully defend the title, beating Tom Ford in the first round, Yan Bingtao in the Last 16 before being knocked out by Kyren Wilson in the Quarters.

I think the tournament’s delay to July and August didn’t help Trump last year, as he was in such a rich vein of form in the spring and he just couldn’t quite keep that going into the summer.

This time the momentum of his titles in January and February should still be fresh enough in his mind.

The great commentator Phil Yates said two years ago that winning a first world title was like getting a gorilla rather than a monkey off his back for Trump, and we shouldn't forget he played the best snooker of his life to dispatch Higgins. 

Now that pressure has gone, hopefully Trump can arrive in Sheffield and play with the same fearlessness and composure which has seen him dominate the snooker landscape so brilliantly since November 2018. 

He is one of the sport’s great entertainers and if he can rouse body and mind to play his best for one last tournament before an early summer holiday, then we are all in for a scintillating 17 days in Sheffield.

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