Judd Trump from doldrums to dominance as historic winning run rolls on
A dominant force has re-emerged on the baize.
Judd Trump has won 20 matches and three ranking titles on the spin, not something that is unfathomable for one of the all-time greats, but it certainly looked very unlikely six months ago.
The 34-year-old won his fourth Northern Ireland Open on Sunday night, surging to a comfortable 9-3 win over Chris Wakelin in Belfast.
That completed a hat-trick of titles in a month, having won the English Open and Wuhan Open and he becomes just the fifth player ever to win three ranking events on the bounce.
Seemingly unfazed and with no real sign of mental or physical fatigue, Trump said the climax in Belfast was as well as he has played on this epic winning run, so in fact he is getting stronger as he keeps racking up the victories.
‘The last session tonight was the best I have felt in the whole 20-match run, I felt really sharp,’ he said. ‘Once I get in front I can relax, play my best and over-power my opponents.
‘When you are playing well, people miss at the right times, you scrape through in deciders and live to fight another day. Mentally I have been in a good place when the chances come up.’
This is a far cry from the man who had just lost in the first round of the World Championship to Anthony McGill in April and sounded despondent about his game.
‘There’s not a player I would have beaten on the big stage playing like that, so I deserved to lose,’ Trump told Eurosport after a 10-6 defeat and only his second first round exit from Sheffield since 2011.
‘The manner of the loss…not turning up, missing easy balls. It’s something I don’t really do anymore.’
It was not quite panic stations in the Trump camp, he won the Masters and reached the final of the Grand Prix in January, but things had gone badly enough from there until the end of the season to cause concern by his exceptionally high standards.
There were surprise losses to Daniel Wells and Jimmy White at the Welsh Open and WST Classic, a first round exit from the Players Championship and a failure to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time since that tournament arrived on the calendar in 2019.
After that run of form, and against a tough opponent in McGill, falling at the first Crucible hurdle wasn’t even a great surprise and Trump was in need of a dramatic turnaround over the summer.
He needed it and he got it, with a run to the European Masters final in August, and despite a surprise defeat to Hammad Miah at the British Open, he felt that a resurgence was close.
Speaking after a first round win at the English Open, Trump told Metro.co.uk: ‘The game’s there, just the confidence isn’t, but it’s not a million miles off.
‘You’ve just got to win more games, get through the tough ones. Any time any player has won four, five, six events in a season, they’ve always won the deciders, the close ones and built confidence from there.
‘It’s absolute fractions between dominating the season and just another decent performance. Just cut out the little mistakes and really believe under the utmost pressure.’
That’s exactly what he has done, winning four matches in deciding frames on this 20-match run, against John Higgins, Jimmy Robertson, Noppon Saengkham and Stephen Maguire.
‘When a player does get on a run you need to remember how many tight games they get through because that is the difference,’ Trump said after his latest Belfast triumph. ‘The British Open I lost a close game against Hammad Miah and I played well.
‘The last three events I’ve scraped through maybe five deciders [it was four], I could have lost all of them, it’s just a 50-50 shoot out at that point. The margins are so fine in snooker, the talent is there for everyone to see.
‘It’s just about, when it’s your time you’ve got to really take it.’
Trump’s time is not over yet as he heads back to China for the International Championship as the defending champion, having won the last edition of the event in 2019.
After joining the club of Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Ray Reardon and Ding Junhui with three straight ranking titles, there seems little reason he cannot make it four.
Jimmy White said on Eurosport: ‘I can’t see anyone stopping him at the moment and in China it’s more frames, start off best of 11.
‘The form he’s in, as soon as anyone comes near him he finds another gear. Fantastic stuff. The man in form, he’s going to be favourite, he’s got a week off before he goes there so he’ll be fresh.’
A lack of confidence and belief held Trump back from his very best over the last couple of seasons, having come down from the high of six ranking titles in the 2019/20 campaign, but that problem has been solved.
Heading to Tianjin for the International Championship, which starts on Sunday, he will be as confident as anyone that he will pick up the trophy, the huge £175,000 top prize and regain the world number one spot in the process.
He will certainly not be worried about the travel to China, as he said after winning the Wuhan Open that it is the support he gets in the country that carried him to victory.
‘I think it was the support of everyone from China. I think maybe I should move here!’ Trump claimed. ‘I always enjoy coming to China, so I think I play very well here.
‘There’s so much support and so many fans here, so every time I come to China I think I have more chance of winning than in the UK.’
That is a scary thought for the rest of the field next week as we re-enter a period of Trump dominance which shows no sign of ending any time soon.
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