Judd Trump wants it to be third time lucky against Ronnie O’Sullivan at next month’s Masters.
The swashbuckling left-hander has knuckled down to hard practice this season and impressive results have followed, but Trump has fallen to O’Sullivan in two finals over the last month.
He was edged out 10-7 in a high-quality Champion of Champions showdown at Coventry in November, and came back from 9-4 adrift to force a deciding frame in Sunday’s UK Championship title match, only to be squeezed out in a gripping finish.
O’Sullivan admitted he was “scared” of Trump when the 25-year-old roared back from the brink of defeat to threaten what would have been one of snooker’s greatest comebacks.
Trump senses he had the 39-year-old rattled, too, but O’Sullivan clung on for his fifth UK title, to add to his five World Championship wins and five Masters triumphs.
Trump has yet to reach a Masters final but will be going all out to put that right at Alexandra Palace, and would love another shot at the man he rates second to none.
“He’s definitely the best player to ever play,” said Trump of O’Sullivan. “I’m getting closer and, for me, I’ve lost the last two of the biggest tournaments to the best player ever, really, so there’s not that much to be disappointed by. I’m looking forward to the Masters. I’m in good form and, hopefully, we can meet in the final again.”
Trump has been handed a tricky opener against Stephen Maguire, while defending Masters champion O’Sullivan plays Ricky Walden first.
The blossoming rivalry cannot be renewed until the final, and, should Trump get his wish of tackling the ‘Rocket’ again, he knows he cannot let O’Sullivan race away with the early frames.
“You’ve really got to get off to a good start against Ronnie. You can’t give him five-frame leads.”
O’Sullivan played often sublime snooker in 2014, starting with his Masters victory before adding the Welsh Open, reaching the World Championship final and capping his year with his latest back-to-back successes.
A broken foot almost kept him out of the UK Championship, but, after struggling around the table early in the tournament, the pain of the injury sustained while running subsided. It did not hamper him come the late stages.
Instead it was Trump causing O’Sullivan all the anguish. “He scared me with the way he played,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s very aggressive, very attacking. It’s in-your-face. He’s got so much confidence.”