Judd Trump is starting to dominate snooker in the way his talent has always promised. But, ahead of his defence of the williamhill.com UK Championship, the world number one tells STEVE CARROLL he has had to temper his aggressive nature.
FRUSTRATED, ragged, and totally out-of-sorts, an irritated Judd Trump hurled his cue at another ridiculous ball as he continued a desperate bid to pot his way out of trouble.
A bid for York glory looked over before it had really begun.
Trailing 4-2 to Dominic Dale in the first round of last year’s UK Championship, the Bristol potter – who had become snooker’s newest star when thrilling the crowds on his way to the World Championship final earlier in the year – had already benefited from Lady Luck when fluking a red into a corner pocket.
But he was back in his seat after smashing a pink off the jaws of the top bag.
Fate, though, intervened.
Winding off two cushions, the colour fell into the middle pocket and Trump had yet another life. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Maguire, Neil Robertson and Mark Allen were subsequently despatched as the 23-year-old picked up his first major title.
Lessons were not lost, however.
The rise up the rankings has continued, the titles have continued to come his way. A third ranking event in 19 months was claimed in China at the inaugural International Championship, and Trump gained revenge over John Higgins for a recent Players’ Tournament Championship final defeat by crushing the four-time world champion 4-0 in the Bulgarian Open in Sofia last week.
It is solid form that sees him arrive in York this week as the world number one.
And, Trump says, it’s down to a change in style.
You might be forgiven for blinking in surprise if you see him turn down a long pot or two at York’s Barbican over the next few days, but this is a new and improved player – and he reckons his good results are all down to spurning the outrageous pots that helped to make his name.
“I am a little bit more conservative,” Trump explains. “I am more patient. I wait for my chances rather than try to force the issue. I am a lot more patient and, as long as I can keep winning, I am happy. There’s no reason for me to change my game.
“It’s hard not to take these pots on sometimes but I know if I play the right game that I am capable of winning the tournament. I am not going to change that approach in a hurry, although it’s still nice to chuck one in for the crowd.”
Trump, who starts the defence of his title against qualifier Mark Joyce on Sunday at 2pm, is his own biggest critic.
His 6-5 win over O’Sullivan in last year’s second round was undoubtedly the match of the tournament. He fired in efforts of 68, 64, 76, 98 and 51, while O’Sullivan racked up 85, 114, 83 and 69, in a clash that had everyone in the auditorium on the edge of their seats.
But, like his opponent, his reaction to that classic was one of dissatisfaction. He’d made too many errors, he’d said, his break-off play had been poor.
He was just relieved to have got over the winning line.
Though his attacking game is more cautious, there is little sense that his good form is likely to change his attitude to self-improvement.
“I am playing consistently and when I am doing that I am tough to beat,” he adds.
“My safety play has improved by 20 or 30 per cent over the past couple of months and that’s where these results are coming from.
“My break-building, and safety, are getting better all the time but I think I have got to keep improving. I would say my long potting was probably better when I was two or three years younger. I still do okay but the safety has been the key for my consistency over the past year.
“It’s why I am doing so well – because I have been spending a lot of time working on that. It has always been a goal of mine to get to number one and hopefully I can win the World Championship soon.
“I am playing well. I am feeling good at the moment and am playing some consistent stuff. I am happy with the way I am playing. The last year has been good. It’s a good feeling at the moment in practise and in a tournament. I am looking forward to returning to York.”