It has all finally crystallised for Judd Trump at the Crucible. Snooker’s greatest natural talent is the game’s new world champion. Glorious news for Trump, but an even better bulletin for the sport he waves his wand over.
The man nicknamed ‘The Ace In The Pack’ is suddenly holding all the cards on the green baize after a quite awe-inspiring display of feverish, powerhouse potting. Snooker from the Gods with a devilish side to it all was thoroughly enlivening. The possibilities for the bounding Bristolian at the age of 29 beyond these totemic and tortuous 17 days are endless. There is no going back after this.
Across the slates of the tables, the tectonic plates of world snooker shifted in Sheffield. Perhaps not quite snooker’s version of A Star Is Born on the green baize because Trump had always threatened to revolutionise the sport since he made a 147 break at the age of 14, but there was a coming of age about his quite astonishing 18-9 butchering of a flabbergasted John Higgins on Sunday and Monday.
He is the first player to earn a million in a season after collecting the £500,000 first prize to go with lifting the Masters, the Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix, but the heaven-sent nature of the performance itself was priceless.
“I’ll take it one step at a time and not get too carried away,” he told me. “I’ve had an amazing season. I’m still young for a snooker player, I want to keep improving and keep taking my game to new levels.”
It was the unrelenting consistency of his attack on the sport's grandest stage that left you gawping at times in disbelief. Higgins put it succinctly when he said: “He does not just overpower the opponent, he overpowers the snooker table."
O'Sullivan - 'Trump's best game is better than mine - he's taken snooker to another level'
It was no slight on the ability of Higgins, but Trump’s sleight of hand was something to behold.
The Crucible has seen and entertained all sorts of have-a-go heroes in 43 years of hosting the annual potting jamboree, but has never witnessed a talent like Trump. Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Higgins with 16 world gongs between them, were and remain exceptional, sublime players, but they do not come near to what Trump can produce when he is fully loaded.
All three have admitted Trump on top of his game is without compare which says enough.
“I was trying to enjoy it, and put on a show for the fans. Play a few different shots that other players don’t play,” he said. “You practice so hard in private so you’ve got to go out and show it somehow.”
‘Judd Trump is in PlayStation mode’
Sublime potting ability, audacious shot-making, glorious break-building qualities, fearless, fast, imaginative, tactically astute with a work ethic behind the scenes to support his unrivalled natural ability, Trump has it all and more.
At times, it was like watching snooker’s version of Swan Lake such was the deft and graceful way the lithe frame danced around the table, almost eyeing up the balls like prey. It was a cathartic experience, like he was at one with the table.
Well-mannered, thoughtful and talkative in interviews, Trump possesses every quality you would seek from a snooker world champion. He is a marketing man’s dream, the first world champion in his 20s since Neil Robertson in 2010.
“It was so pleasing to be able to play like I did when I was younger,” said Trump, who had swatted up extensively on the lessons of his 18-15 loss to Higgins in the 2011 final having led 10-7 overnight.
I think it so important to grow the game, you are going to need different kinds of fans involved in the game. You can’t go around playing the same snooker as everyone else. You want to get as many fans, as many younger players interested in snooker as possible.
The facts speak for themselves in what was the finest standard seen in any final: Trump made seven centuries and eight breaks over 50. Higgins - losing finalist over the past three years - produced his peak performance of the season with four tons and four 50plus knocks of his own, but still lost by nine frames.
The contrast from yesteryear is stark: six centuries were made in the whole tournament the first time out here in 1977. Fred Davis aged 65 was applauded by a referee wearing a rosette like a dustbin lid after compiling a ton forty years ago. Changed days indeed. Snooker is an evolving game, but the fundamentals remain the same when World Championship time comes around.
Like the hoary old line about snooker no longer having characters, it is quite amusing hearing the phrase snooker’s triple crown wheeled out about the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship being given equal gravitas as majors. It is made-up poppycock that was invented somewhere in the annals of a national broadcaster over the past 15 years which is handy enough when you televise the three events. It is fake news.
There are no majors in snooker, only one major. And Trump holds the only one that matters. Trump, UK champion in 2011, said prior to the final, he would swap all his trophies won this season for the World Championship. He would trade it all in for the big one.
‘That is the late, great Alex Higgins at his best’ – Trump produces majestic pot at the Crucible
There is only one title that they all crave when they start out as professionals, and only one place where the legend of snooker players are forged and celebrated. It is what you do at the World Championship that dictates legacy, nothing else even comes close.
As harsh as it sounds, does anybody recall Jimmy White winning the 1992 UK Championship against John Parrott? Most members of the public recall him losing to Parrott in the 1991 world final amid five other defeats, once to Steve Davis and four times to Hendry in Sheffield. The Whirlwind's billing as snooker's greatest nearly man will no longer burden Trump.
Trump prospered after surviving a duel with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the first round in which he recovered from trailing 6-3 to steal a 10-9 victory in the final frame with a make-or-break cross double.
‘Judd Trump has surely never played better, sustained snooker than this!’
He trailed 9-7 to Ding Junhui in the second round, but came through 13-7. He filleted Stephen Maguire 13-6 in the last eight and outdid the heavy-scoring, free-wheeling qualifier Gary Wilson 17-11 in the semi-finals. He has won every way which but loose at this tournament.
Trump is aware of the need to make snooker a mass entertainment sport that kids can pursue. Trump is the perfect potting prototype to engage with audiences in the digital age.
Judd Trump celebrates with family and friends.
Image credit: PA Sport
“There are so many different sports, and the airtime we get is very limited so to be produce that on the game’s biggest stage will hopefully inspire a few kids to get involved in the future. That’s the aim,” he said.
I think I can play better. Hopefully I can take the game to standards that haven’t been seen before. I’m going to put in the work, go back and practice even harder to produce a new standard that no one has seen before.
He has already attained a standard that hasn’t been seen before. He is no longer the nearly man, but the man. Trump is not only a world champion, but a snooker artist whose Crucible canvas is ready for the revolution.
Desmond Kane at the Crucible Theatre