Inventor of ‘naughty snooker’ now planning for world domination

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JUDD TRUMP has had to deal with high expectations for most of his life such was his precocious talent with a snooker cue.

For the 22-year-old has been tipped as a future World champion since he roared through the amateur ranks, winning the English Under-13 and Under-15 titles and at 14 took Ronnie O’Sullivan’s title as the youngest player to make a competitive 147.

That same year he even reached the World Under-21 semi-finals, and is still only one of four 17-year-olds (Stephen Hendry, O’Sullivan and China’s Liu Chuang are the others in that exclusive club) to have played at Sheffield’s famous Crucible theatre in the World Championship.

So sitting in the company of the left-handed potter – who looks like he should be in a boy band rather than wearing a waistcoat and dickie bow – it is easy to accept his proclamations that he does not worry about the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

Conversely, after winning a thrilling UK Championship final at the York Barbican earlier this month – beating Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen 10-8 – Trump has sights on conquering the world.

Leading stars like John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan are nearing 40, while most other players in snooker’s top 16 – such as the likes of Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby – are approaching 30.

Look further down the age list and only 24-year-old Ding Junhui, the Chinese star who lives in Sheffield, has the ability to stay with 22-year-old Trump for the next decade.

It is one of the reasons that Trump – who earlier this year won the China Open, before pushing Higgins all the way before defeat in the final at the World Championship – believes he can go on to dominate.

“I used to think that no one could dominate the game, but I’ve changed my mind because I haven’t played that well in this tournament and I still won it,” said Trump at York. “A few of the top players are getting on and there’s a big gap to my age.”

Having turned professional at 16, it has taken five years for the Bristol-born potter – who now trains at the same Essex club as his hero O’Sullivan – to fulfill his potential and he puts that down to increased confidence.

Although having spent time with him at the Crucible and Barbican this month, it is hard to believe this exuberant cueman – who has cultured an image of fast cars and party lifestyle – to be anything other than uber confident.

His attacking style of play has rocked the status quo on the snooker circuit and left him open to pot shots from rivals about the quality of his safety and positional play. Criticisms, just like his opponents, are swept aside.

“I’ve still got a lot of improving to do but this is a big confidence boost. I don’t fear anyone,” said the world No 5.

“A few players have criticised me, but they knew my strengths and weaknesses and they still couldn’t beat me.

“They say I’m all about potting and my positional play is no good, but I like to prove them wrong. They played well against me and I still beat them quite easily.”

The final at York was anything other than easy. Trump had trailed 3-1 against Allen, with both players looking to win the UK title for the first time. But after the mid-session interval Trump – who has coined the phrase ‘naughty snooker’ which alludes to his extravagant style of play – reeled off seven successive frames to get one hand on the trophy and a £100,000 cheque.

He had to fight off Allen’s late surge before finally running out a 10-8 winner to leave him a relieved young man.

“It was amazing,” said Trump. “We were both at the top of our game. It was Mark’s first (ranking) final so I was surprised how well he played. If he keeps that up he’ll have no trouble winning tournaments.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to win the tournament. I needed to step my game up and I did it.”

Trump is now looking forward to next month’s Masters in London, although any lavish spending sprees will have to wait until after the Crucible next May.

“I won’t be naughty now until after the World Championship,” said Trump.

“I can’t buy a Ferrari as I need to get my no claims bonus up, the insurance would not be pretty. But I’ll have a brilliant festive period and go into next year feeling positive. I can’t wait for the Masters, to see what the atmosphere is like at Ally Pally.”