Snooker

'I want to be like Terry Griffiths' Trump sports classic green baize barnet on winning return

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1979 world champion Terry Griffiths and 2019 world champion Judd Trump.

Image credit: Eurosport

ByDesmond Kane
02/06/2020 at 05:54 | Updated 03/06/2020 at 05:46

No fans, no problem. The main issue snooker confronted on its return from months of enforced hibernation was ensuring all of the men armed with cues were medically safe to resume duty on the opening day of the Championship League.

All eight players and 35 staff at Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes including referees, commentators and TV cameramen tested negative for COVID-19 enabling the event to progress on schedule on Monday, much to the relief of tournament organisers. It was an eminently enjoyable experiment for the sport battling the uncertain and unwelcome new world of a global health crisis.

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The jolly green baize on the first day of British summer might have sounded odd, but it proved to be business as usual with the lack of fans and frisson actually providing proceedings with a tranquil sense of serenity. Pimm's with pots seemed to work rather well without tennis.

Summer snooker is a nice and timely diversion for the public to revel in amid such serious times. Not a bad distraction if you are devoted to the essence of such an art.

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn deserves enormous credit for catapulting the game back into some sort of match-fit state with snooker joining horse racing as the first major sports to spring back into action. In Judd Trump, snooker possesses its own Tiger Roll on a roll.

Played behind closed doors due to UK government health guidelines, this had a weirdly fuzzy, familiar feeling of normality about it as world champion Trump, three times a Championship League winner, picked up from where he left off in lifting the Gibraltar Open on 15 March, the sport's last event before lockdown.

"I felt it was important to show my support to everyone who has tried to get this event on behind the scenes when they could easily have just sat back, made excuses and let other sports take the initiative," said Trump after three wins out of three.

"Everyone behind the scenes has done an amazing job and put us at the forefront of sport at the moment."

Trump has been an undisputed number one since filleting John Higgins 18-9 in the World Championship final a year ago, back in a different world. He has carried off a record six ranking events in a pristine campaign with the defence of his world title due at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield behind closed doors next month.

WIth no access to a barbers, Trump's weave was compared on social media to 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths in his halcyon hair days of the 1980s, but his coiffure was the only thing that looked out of place compared to his cueball control. He carries an aura about him that was perhaps last witnessed in the sport during Stephen Hendry's dominance of the 1990s.

"I want to be like Terry Griffiths," joked Trump. "Hopefully I can play as slow as him one day as well. I'll keep slowing down as I get older and morph into some of the older players."

Even when he does not seem to play well, he plays well. The only real challenge was to remember to pick up a rest for himself at the end of the table with referees unable to carry out their usual duties of assistance because of strict hygiene controls.

In between seeing the tables wiped, Trump was wiping the floor with his opponents.

He comfortably despatched Group 2 opponent David Grace 3-0 in his opening match of the 64-man event in second gear before recovering two snookers in the first frame against Elliot Slessor, the 2017 Northern Ireland Open semi-finalist, to pinch it on the black.

World number 70 Slessor restored parity at 1-1 boosted by a 68 break, but Trump won the next two frames including a closing 56 to leave himself on the cusp of the last-16 group phase when all 16 group winners come across each other next week.

‘Judd Trump has surely never played better, sustained snooker than this!’

00:01:40

Slessor - a 3-1 winner over world number 52 Daniel Wells in his opener - required a 3-0 victory over Grace to keep alive his slim hopes while hoping Trump would slump to a 3-0 loss against Welshman Wells in his final group encounter.

That hope was extinguished as Grace levelled at 1-1 after Slessor had made a fine 106 break in the opening frame. Slessor snared the next two frames for a 3-1 win to ensure second place in the group.

Trump's job was done before his final group match with Wells, a 3-1 triumph that sees him extend his winning streak to 14 matches. He will return next week for more group games with snooker perhaps relishing more the chance to prove it belongs back in the limelight.

"It was a struggle to get going," said Trump. "A little bit of rustiness. I got the job done, but hopefully that sets me up. I can go away and try a bit more."

2019 World Championship semi-finalist David Gilbert dominated Group 13 with two 3-0 wins over Jackson Page and Stuart Carrington respectively and a 2-2 draw with Jak Jones.

The heavy-scoring world number 11 Gilbert, who considered quitting the game two years ago with his confidence shot, certainly enjoyed his airing, producing fine runs of 100, 68 and 92 against Carrington and 65, 51 and 89 in overcoming Page.

If the British public rediscovers the calming influence of the green baize in the same manner as Tamworth technician Gilbert, snooker's willingness to improvise in the face of adversity will have been well worth it.

Desmond Kane

Championship League full results and draw

Monday June 1

(all matches start at 3pm BST unless stated)

Table One Group 2

  • Match 1 Judd Trump 3-0 David Grace
  • Match 2 Daniel Wells 1-3 Elliot Slessor
  • Match 3 Daniel Wells 2-2 David Grace
  • Match 4 Judd Trump 3-1 Elliot Slessor
  • Match 5 Elliot Slessor 3-1 David Grace
  • Match 6 Judd Trump 3-1 Daniel Wells

Group winner: Judd Trump (Eng)

Table Two Group 13

  • Match 1 Stuart Carrington 3-1 Jak Jones
  • Match 2 David Gilbert 3-0 Jackson Page
  • Match 3 David Gilbert 2-2 Jak Jones
  • Match 4 Stuart Carrington 2-2 Jackson Page
  • Match 5 David Gilbert 3-0 Stuart Carrington
  • Match 6 Jak Jones 0-3 Jackson Page

Group winner: David Gilbert (Eng)

2020 Championship League snooker: Latest results and updated draw

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