Last week saw the Masters Snooker tournament take place at the Alexandra Palace (or ‘ally pally’ for the darts enthusiasts’) with Judd Trump taking the full honours. The Masters is part of the big three in the calendar year that all professionals want to win. They encompass the World Championships, the UK championships and, of course, the Masters. To have all three accredited to your record separates the men from the boys in the world of Snooker. While the Masters is only a small tournament, to be eligible you must be in the top 16 in the world rankings, thus it is very selective and prestigious. Essentially, the first round matches could be finals within their own right.
Judd Trump, prior to his victory, had not won a major tournament for eight years, and considering he has been tipped for quite some time now that he will take over Ronnie O’Sullivan’s dominance as he himself did with Stephen Hendry, this has proven quite concerning. Nevertheless, the competitor in the final was indeed O’Sullivan himself, and it is fair to say, in the words of one of the commentators, Trump gave O’Sullivan a good `walloping`, beating him 10-4. O’Sullivan has featured in six consecutive finals, winning five, and has been on instrumental form. This didn’t faze Trump, even when he conceded a 3-0 lead, with Ronnie bringing it back to 3-3. One of the sports greats, Steve Davis, commented that it seemed Trump was destined to win the Masters given that it was long in the making. Trump now has the Masters and the UK Championship to his name, but the Worlds is something that still eludes him.
There are fears amongst many of the fans that he could become another Jimmy White, who famously never won a World championship in spite of the fact that he more or less dominated the sport. It would be a great shame if a talent such as Trump was unable to win at the crucible, and it would be fair to presume that all snooker players would trade all the ranking titles and other majors they have won in return for their name to be enshrined on the list of winners at the World championships.
After winning at the weekend, Judd admitted that he was “sick of losing” in major tournaments which are the key definers of a professional players career. Interestingly, the victory against O’Sullivan in the final meant that Trump now holds the advantage over head-to-heads between his rival in major finals. Surely this will invoke the necessary confidence that he now needs to propel himself for when he descends upon the Crucible theatre in a couple of months’ time. Snooker is not black and white like may be the case with other sports. You have a ranking, granted, but the standard is so high that whatever ranking you are, this doesn’t depict the whole picture. Take O’Sullivan, he rarely ever ascends to the top of the rankings of spite of the claim that he is the greatest ever player to hold a snooker cue. This is because he isn’t present at many of the ranking tournaments. There are so many that it is inadvertently discouraging some given the length of travel required.
There are many to pick from that could be considered winners of this years World championships – O’Sullivan, Trump, Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Ding Jun Hui, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Mark Allen to name a few. Thus, Trump certainly has his work cut out, but it is within his reach. Mark Williams has shown that a long period away from his best form of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s didn’t deter him from winning last year, some 15 years after winning his last. Time is still on young Trump’s hands, but this year may be his best chance yet.