Newly-crowned world No 1 Judd Trump returns to York this weekend hoping it will prove the start of a new decade of domination in snooker.
The 23-year-old has rocketed to the top of the world rankings after a whirlwind 18 months where he picked up ranking titles at the williamhill.com UK Championship last year at the York Barbican, China Open, the International Championship and just missed out in the World Championship final against John Higgins.
In reaching No 1, the Bristolian joins an elite group of just 10 players who have held the coveted ranking over the last 40 years.
Steve Davis dominated in the Eighties, Stephen Hendry in the Nineties, and now Trump is keen to monopolise the sport over the next decade.
“There’s a sort of changing over at the moment,” said Trump.
“A lot of the top players are getting older, and over the next few years there will be some new people coming through.
“For my age I am up there and just need to stay at the front of the pack, keep practising hard.
“Not let my foot off the gas really, keep learning off the likes of John Higgins and Ronnie when possible.”
Twelve months ago Trump triumphed at the York Barbican, which again hosts the UK Championship – second only to the World Championship on snooker’s ever-expanding calendar – beating Irishman Mark Allen 10-8 in the final. Trump believes the Northern Ireland potter could be his main rival for honours over the coming seasons.
“Over the next few years, I can see my main rival being Mark Allen,” said Trump. “I think he is the most improved. He is the heaviest scorer. But I also expect someone new to come through in the next year or so, maybe who is 19 or 20 now and can jump out of the pack.”
One player missing at the Barbican is four-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan. While Trump would have relished the chance to perform against one of the best players the sport has produced, he accepts his rival needs time away from the game.
“He is having quite a hard time off the table in his personal life; I think it was right for him,” he said. “His mind’s not fully focused on snooker at the moment, he needs to sort his problems out and come back stronger.
“He is a great player and, any tournament he goes into is obviously favourite. So it’s a greater chance for the other players, including me, while he is not there. It would obviously be nice to beat him if he was in the tournament, but you still have to do the same job and beat who is in front of you.”
Trump opens his defence tomorrow against qualifier Mark Joyce, while Allen faces Marco Fu.
The pick of the opening day’s matches today sees Sheffield-based Ding Junhui paired with Welshman Ryan Day. Mark Selby tackles Michael White and former world champion John Higgins plays Michael Holt.
Trumped up: Page 8.