Judd Trump, a missed blue, and the start of a glorious career for former snooker world champion

It was the day when Judd Trump finally announced himself on the big stage.

That missed blue - England's Judd Trump at the table during the final at the Betfred.com World Snooker Championships of 2011 against John Higgins (Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA)
That missed blue - England's Judd Trump at the table during the final at the Betfred.com World Snooker Championships of 2011 against John Higgins (Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Ten years ago, the then 21-year-old arrived in Sheffield as a relatively unknown commodity.

But by the time he cued off against John Higgins in the Betfred World Championship final, Trump – the swashbuckling young pretender to the throne – had earned a legion of new fans, if not the Crucible title.

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The Bristol potter had shown a glimpse of his talent on the big stage by winning the China Open just weeks before arriving in the Steel City, but he was denied snooker’s ultimate prize, losing 18-15 to Scotland’s Higgins in the showpiece final.

England's Judd Trump at the table during the final at the Betfred.com World Snooker Championships at the Crucible, Sheffield, of 2011 (Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire)

It was a minor hiccup, later that year in 2011 Trump won the UK Championship – one of snooker’s Triple Crown events, along with the World Championship and Masters – and the only surprise was that it took him another eight years before finally claiming the Crucible prize.

He arrived in Sheffield at the weekend as world No 1 and tipped by many to claim his second world title.

He may have toned down his ‘sexy snooker’ over the years, but he is pure box-office, with the perfect combination of solid safety and attacking prowess.

The 2011 final between Higgins and Trump – included as one of the top 20 matches in Hector Nunns’s must-read book The Crucible’s Greatest Matches – was truly a classic.

In May 2011 John Higgins claimed his fourth Betfred.com World Championship title with an 18-15 victory over Judd Trump at the Crucible. (Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire)

Higgins, the master, going for a fourth world title and third in five years, against rookie Trump, who had earlier beaten defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round, before a memorable semi-final win over Ding Junhui.

Thoughts that Trump may temper his ‘all guns blazing’ style, which had seen him march into the final, were quickly dispelled in the opening two sessions.

He led 10-7 after the opening day, the rewards for some stunning long-range shots which had you drawing comparisons with the style which saw qualifier Shaun Murphy scoop the 2005 World Championship, six years earlier.

The fact Trump didn’t follow Murphy onto the Crucible winners’ board – proudly positioned backstage at the famous theatre, as players wait to enter the arena – can arguably be attributed to one shot.

Judd Trump bounced back quickly to win the UKL Championship later that year (Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire)

Strange that a match contested over two days, four sessions and 35 frames can rest on one missed pot.

But, even 10 years later, a missed blue seems as relevant now as it did then.

Trump was leading 12-9, deep into frame 22. He had battled back from 47-18 down, with a break of 37, and looked set to steal the frame and take a four-frame lead.

The final blue, near the cushion, was a tough shot. Commentator John Virgo, in hushed tones, said: “Surely not even Judd Trump can take this blue on down the cushion, it is too risky and percentage-wise odds-against.”

But after much deliberating, Trump followed his attacking instincts and went for the shot, missing with the rest, and allowing Higgins off the hook, who closed to 12-10.

It was the first of five successive frames for the Scot, and the match had turned in his favour.

“About midway through the third session it started to wobble a bit for me and there was that really bad miss on the blue that cost me a possible 13-9 lead, after which John got on a roll,” recalled Trump in Nunns’s The Crucible’s Greatest Matches.

“And if that had gone in and I kept the momentum going, things could have been different.

“But that blue, as well as costing me that frame the whole course of the match seemed to change in that instant, and little things that had been going for me were not any more.

“I will always think that one shot changed everything, and from then on John just got stronger and stronger.”

Trump battled back to level at 14-14, but the momentum was with Higgins now as he went on to clinch an 18-15 victory.

“I think Judd is a future multiple world champion, he is that good,” said Higgins afterwards.

“The progress he has made from winning in China to now is incredible. It was a joy to watch him for me and everyone else, and that can only be good for the game.

“He’s a good-looking boy, young and exciting, so it’s all set up for him.”

Having first turned professional as a 16-year-old – the same year when Murphy was crowned world champion – Trump has certainly lived up to such rich praise.

The world No 1 has now banked 22 ranking titles, picking up the English Open, Northern Ireland Open, World Grand Prix, German Masters and Gibraltar Open this season.

Favourite at 11-4 with sponsors Betfred to claim a second Crucible title over the next fortnight – defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is 5-1 – few would argue with the bookies.

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