Big Interview: Snooker star Judd Trump

Judd Trump faces Ronnie O'Sullivan in an exhibition event at the Guild Hall, in Preston, next month
Judd Trump faces Ronnie O'Sullivan in an exhibition event at the Guild Hall, in Preston, next month
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Judd Trump does not believe that he has missed his ‘cue’ in life.

Trump will be at Preston Guild Hall in September for the Eleven 30 Series. where local fans can see his talent at close quarters.

It is more than five years since the Bristol-born ace announced his arrival as a big-time player to the snooker world and beyond.

Aged just 21 at the time, Trump was on the cusp of sporting immortality when he embarked on a memorable run to the final of the World Championships in 2011.

His meeting against multiple world champion John Higgins in the deciding match at The Crucible proved to be a titanic affair.

The match swung one way, and then the other, before the pair found themselves locked at 14-frames all.

Just four frames away from becoming the second youngest world champion ever, behind Stephen Hendry, Trump blinked with the final winning pot in sight.

Higgins’ greater experience told in the end as the Scot claimed four of the next five frames to win his fourth world title, leaving the beaten finalist to stew on what might have been.

Despite the loss against Higgins, Trump was heralded as the sport’s next big superstar, with many good judges suggesting it would be only a matter of time before he would get his hands on the sport’s biggest prize.

In many respects, ‘The Juggernaut’ has lived up to the hype since.

He has captured the prestigious UK Championship – the sport’s second biggest title – and has topped the world rankings, but he is still waiting to be crowned world champion.

In fact, his defeat to Higgins is the closest he has come to conquering The Crucible so far during his career.

Many people have suggested – including the game’s biggest star Ronnie O’Sullivan – that the clock is ticking on Trump’s bid to rid himself of his own ‘Crucible curse’.

The five-time winner believes that the current world No.5 must win the world title within the next couple of years or else he could find himself superseded by the next batch of young stars coming up.

Trump – now aged 26 – is having none of it though and believes time is still firmly on his side. He has pointed to the fact that the last two world champions – Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham – were both aged above 30 when they won it for the first time.

O’Sullivan himself had to wait until he was 25 before being crowned world champion – a surprisingly late age considering he burst on to the scene eight or so years earlier by defeating Hendry as a raw 17-year-old in the final of the UK Championships.

Trump recoils at the suggestion that the weight of expectation has prevented him from achieving success in Sheffield over the last few years.

“Expectation comes from yourself and I don’t really worry about what other people might say or think,” Trump told the Evening Post.

“At the end of the day, the only pressure I have comes from within. I try to play with freedom and not worry about anything else.

“I am a great believer that if you have got the talent and you work hard then you will win the big tournaments.

“I think getting to the final of the World Championships in 2011 gave me the belief to kick-start my career at the highest level.

“Before that I had found it hard adapting to playing on the big stage and in front of the television cameras.

“My run back in 2011 gave me the confidence and belief that I was good enough to play on that stage as long as I worked hard enough and put the time in on the practice table.

“So from my point of view there’s no need to worry that I haven’t won the worlds yet.

“I have got 10 to 15 years left at the top of the game I feel, and so hopefully I’ll win it one day.

“Ronnie did not win it until he was 25, so that gives me a little bit of heart.

“Someone as good as him – he still had to wait until he was 25 to win it.

“I will be 27 the next time I play at The Crucible, so I’m still quite young and there’s still plenty of time.”

Even though Trump has yet to repeat his 2011 exploits in Sheffield, his overall record at the event since has not been too shabby. He has registered two semi-final appearances in 2013 and 2015, although this year he exited at the second-round stage to China’s Ding Junhui, who went on to reach the final before losing to Mark Selby.

“Ding Junhui played very well this year,” he said.

“He did well getting to the final and was close to beating Mark Selby.

“My record at the World Championships is very good.

“I have been very consistent with my results at The Crucible. I’ve regularly got to the latter stages of the worlds, I just haven’t been able to make that final push and win it.

“It’s not as though I’ve not got close to winning it.

“I’ve been to the final – I’ve been knocking on the door for a while now and hopefully my time will come.

“It’s the hardest one to win because it does take a lot out of you.

“Having to play 17 days in a row, which you have to do to win the worlds, is very tough.

“But there’s nothing to be too disheartened about.

“I’ve managed to win the UK Championships once.

“I won that in 2011 and I got to the final a couple of years ago, where I lost to Ronnie.

“There’s only been really Ronnie and John who have stopped me from winning more and when you think about it, they are two of the greatest players of all time.

“They are not going to be around forever and I am still probably yet to reach my prime.

“I see no reason why I won’t be able to win a few big tournaments in the next few years.”

Preston fans will soon be afforded the opportunity of watching Judd’s unique talents on the green baize at close quarters.

The reigning China Open champion is set to appear alongside O’Sullivan at the Guild Hall for an exhibition.

Known as the Eleven 30 Series, it takes place on Sunday, September 11 and is the third of a six-match series between the pair.

Each match is the best of 11 frames – with both players allowed 30 seconds between each shot.

Trump is currently leading the series 2-0. He won the opening match, courtesy of a deciding frame, in Surrey, before taking the second, in Belfast, by the slightly more comfortable scoreline of 6-4.

Although the event is primarily about fun and entertainment, Trump admits any time he can get the better of arguably the game’s all-time greatest player is a big confidence booster.

In fact, Trump believes just being around O’Sullivan and watching the way he copes with pressure and the weight of expectation can only help his own game.

“You have to admire what Ronnie has done in snooker,” Trump said. “Obviously to win the World Championship once you will be a happy man, so to win it five times, like he has done, is amazing.

“If I can get anywhere near half that number, I will be a very happy man.

“Any time you play against Ronnie, you can only learn from him.

“Anything I can get out of watching him at close quarters will obviously help me a lot in the future.

“Ronnie just plays like there’s no pressure on his shoulders and he doesn’t seem to think about the crowd or all the people watching him.

“He just goes out and enjoys how he wants to play. He doesn’t worry about missing a shot.

“He just enjoys playing and if he wins, he wins and if he loses, he loses.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks playing with no pressure, but that’s what you want to try to do.

“You don’t want to be worrying about missing important shots, because you will end up missing them.

“That’s why Ronnie has done so well in the game over the years.

“His ability to relax on the big shots is what sets him apart.

“The way he can relax when he plays in front of the television cameras – the way he can knock a 147 in – he just makes the game look so easy.

“I think I’ve always tried to play in a relaxed way, similar to Ronnie.

“At the moment players like Ronnie can just do it a little bit more on a consistent basis than me.

“I can play my best against the top players but struggle against the lesser players.

“I think that’s the difference. The really top players like Ronnie don’t have as much trouble getting through the lesser players.”

Even though the match-up is in an exhibition event, Trump knows that O’Sullivan will be looking to stage a fightback with victory in Preston.

“Myself against Ronnie in Preston is sort of going to be a proper game, although not too serious,” said Trump.

“I have won the first two matches and Ronnie really could do with getting back into it.

“It’s been a little bit surprising to be 2-0 up in the series. But I have always had a decent record against Ronnie.

“I think I’m pretty much level with him in our head-to-heads, which is in itself a great achievement because not many people come out of their match-ups with Ronnie even.

“I always have the belief that I can beat the top players like Ronnie.

“It was very close in the first one in Surrey and really could have gone either way, and the second was close as well.

“I managed to get the wins, but I am sure Ronnie will be wanting to win the one in Preston.

“He will not want to go 3-0 down with only three to play.

“I know what Ronnie is like, I am sure he will practising hard and looking to get back in it at Preston.

“Nobody likes to lose any game, especially to a rival so I am sure he will be trying his best, as I will be.”

The two snooker stars will be joined at the Guild Hall by fellow legendary figures of the sport John Virgo and Jimmy White, who will also be on hand to entertain the crowd.

The event aims to get the audience more involved in the proceedings, encouraging a more vocal and noisy atmosphere.

“We are just trying to get people who may not be interested in the normal format of snooker to enjoy the sport,” Trump said.

“So we try to play a little bit differently to how we normally would.

“We play a little bit faster and go for our pots, there’s not too much safety play.

“We welcome a bit of noise from the audience. We try to do get the crowd involved in what’s going on.

“There’s more of a relaxed feel and enjoyment factor than you would find in a normal snooker competition.

“There’s much more going on and so far it’s been well received.

“We also have John Virgo, who is sort of commentating live right next to the table, which is quite funny.

“He is good fun because he commentates as if he were in the commentary booth. He’s literally right next to the table and is funny.

“Michaela Tabb is the referee and Jimmy White raffles off a frame of snooker against himself.”

Having played in Preston in the past, Trump revealed he is looking forward to experiencing the unique atmosphere of the Guild Hall once again.

“I have played there about two or three times in the past and I have always found it a really good arena,” he said.

“The way it is set up, it feels like everybody is close to the table. So I think Ronnie and I being in there will create a good atmosphere.

“Hopefully, there will be a big turnout and we can put on a show for them.”

Trump revealed that fans attending the event can expect some fireworks on the table – maybe even a magical 147.

“There hasn’t been a 147 yet,” he said. “I got close in the first event. I think I got up to 104 then Ronnie almost got one in the next one.

“We are certainly due one and with the way Ronnie and I play, I expect there will be a 147 before the series finishes.

“Who knows? Maybe that will come in Preston.

“It will certainly liven up 
the crowd.”

For tickets, call the Guild Hall Box Office on 01772 804444 or book online www.prestonguildhall.com.

Price are as follows: VIP (limited packages are available where you can meet both the players before the match in a private drinks reception) £76.50, gold £46.50, silver £31.50 (There is a £1.50 
ticket fee).