Not sexy snooker, but defending UK champion Judd Trump able to grind out wins now

REIGNING world champion Judd Trump may have only dropped one frame at this year’s Betway UK Championship, but he insists he must improve if he is to claim the crown for a second time.

Sheffield-based Ding Junhui in action at York on Sunday.

Having earlier cruised past Moroccan world No 127 Amine Amiri, the 30-year-old – who already has three ranking titles to his name this season – breezed into the third round with a 6-1 thumping over Mei Xiwen.

And despite notching a ton and four half-centuries on route to sealing a spot in the last 32, Trump was not wholly satisfied with his performance at the York Barbican, but explained a renewed level of consistency had helped him get over the line.

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“I wasn’t great,” he said. “I expected a tough game but he struggled a bit out there. He beat Ronnie [O’Sullivan] earlier this season so I thought he’d come out and play really well.

“My cue ball control wasn’t the best at the start and I did what I needed to do, but if I’m going to go any further I think I have to improve by some way.

“In these big events you’re not always going to play at your best all the time so it’s just important that you get to through to the next round and give yourself a chance to lift such a great trophy.

“I’d say I’m at about 70 per cent of the level I showed at the World Championships or the Masters, but I’m managing to grind out wins now that perhaps I wouldn’t have got through three or four years ago.”

Elsewhere at the first Triple Crown event of the season, it was a case of job done for two-time champion Ding Junhui as he safely booked his spot in round three with a 6-2 win over Michael Georgiou.

A former world No 1, Ding has seen his form somewhat stutter in recent times and he arrived in York with his top 16 place – and a place at the Masters in the New Year – under threat.

And while he conceded he still has improvements to make, the Sheffield-based potter was pleased with a performance that included two half-centuries and a final-frame ton.

He said: “I was pleased that I made a lot of improvements from my first game. We both had a lot of chances and there was a lot of safety play which I think I dealt with well.

“I made a really nice break in the final frame and it was great to get a century on the board. I love to make centuries and I look forward to making more as the tournament goes on.

“I’m glad to get over the line but I still think there are things to work on and I’m quite far away from producing my best performance. I need to improve quickly because the next round will be tough. I’m not sure how far I am from being back to my absolute best form – hopefully I can find it in my next match!”

Next up for Ding is a mouth-watering battle with former world No 2 Ali Carter, who insisted he is ready to once again challenge for snooker’s biggest titles after overcoming Robert Milkins 6-2.

The world No 17 said: “I’m just taking it one match at a time but I know I’ve got pedigree and on my day I know I can beat anyone. I’ve proved that in the past and it’s about time I lifted a big one.

“It’ll be a great match against Ding. I’m delighted to be playing a top 16 player – with a spot at the Masters potentially up for grabs – and while I don’t take too much notice of other players’ form, we all know he’s a class player.

“The matches are all so big here and the tournament’s got a very special feel about it – like no other really. That puts the added pressure on as well but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan cruised into the third round with a second successive 6-0 victory as he swept past Tian Pengfei.

Having seen off 18-year-old Ross Bulman in just 66 minutes, the world number two was in no mood to hang around against his Chinese opponent, taking a 4-0 lead into the mid-session interval.

O’Sullivan chalked up a century break of 106 as he polished off the remaining two frames needed for another comprehensive victory.

The seven-time tournament winner is enjoying his latest trip to York after strolling into the last 32.

“It’s my favourite city in the UK. I always tell people you know they must come to York and experience it,” O’Sullivan said in an interview with World Snooker.

“Cambridge is great too, but I just give York the nudge. It’s great to be here and the coffee’s good.

“I love the coffee shops here, so it’s great to be able to go relax, I can go sit down, get my computer out and just study, look into some of the stuff I am interested in and enjoy the surroundings which is important.”

Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.