World Championship final: Top Trump delivers on night of drama at Crucible

Judd Trump.Judd Trump.
Judd Trump.
Judd Trump hopes to end an eight-year wait for Crucible glory on Monday in the final of the Betfred World Championship.

The world No 7 was snooker’s rising star in 2011 when, aged just 21, he was denied in a memorable final as John Higgins claimed his fourth world final.

Many tipped Trump as a future world champion, but while the 29-year-old has won all of snooker’s other major honours a Crucible title has eluded him.

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But eight years later and Trump is back in another Crucible showpiece decider and he resumes his final rematch against Higgins on Monday leading 12-5 after a scintillating display of snooker from both players.

Seven century breaks in the opening 13 frames on Sunday was incredible high scoring – Higgins contributing three, Trump four.

But after the Scot produced a 125 clearance to move 5-4 in front Trump stepped up a gear to reel off eight successive frames to seize control.

While Trump has always been one of the most flamboyant, and powerful, shot-makers in the game he has also improved his safety and tactical nous.

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His Masters win in January was proof of his growing maturity, and this season Trump has also bagged the Northern Ireland Open and the World Grand Prix.

“I’m a different player now compared to the 2011 final,” said Trump, who reached the final after beating qualifier Gary Wilson 17-11 in Saturday’s semi-final. “I know when to turn balls down when I’m not playing too well, and how to dig in.

“My safety’s been a lot better this season and that’s probably the main reason I’ve done so well.

“It’s important against John to get off to a good start, you don’t want him getting too confident. I’m under no illusions as to how hard it’s going to be to beat him. I’m probably going to have to go out there and play the best I’ve ever played.”

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Trump certainly did as the duo treated the Crucible to a mesmerising day of snooker.

No surprise then that fans had spent the weekend camping out as tickets for next year’s World Championship went on sale on Sunday morning.

Higgins is renowned for his fierce competitiveness on the table, but the 43-year-old will need to produce an unlikely comeback on Monday to avoid a third consecutive final defeat.

World No 5 Higgins fell to Mark Selby 18-15 in 2017 and then 12 months ago was denied the title by Mark Williams 18-16.

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Both this year’s finalists produced some stunning snooker in the opening session to return on Sunday night locked at 4-4.

Trump went 2-0 ahead, Higgins smashed in a 139 clearance, before the Bristol potter responded with a 105.

Higgins took the next three frames – peaking with a 101 – before Trump levelled with a 103.

The interval failed to interrupt their flow, either, the Scot returning to the arena last night with another century break, 125.

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But leading 5-4 Higgins then had to watch from the sidelines as Trump produced a scintillating sequence of scoring.

Trump fired in breaks of 135 and 114 to go 8-5 ahead, and the only surprise in frame 14 was that it went to a tactical battle.

The Englishman came out on top, and when Higgins missed a long red to the corner pocket in the next frame Trump nipped in with a frame-winning 71.

Higgins was struggling to stay in touch at 10-5. The Scot was first in the balls in frame 16, but ran out of position after potting the blue to falter on 20.

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Trump nipped in with a 58 break, and won the final frame of the night with a 70 break – having reeled off eight successive frames – to go 12-5 in front.

It was harsh on Higgins, who had done little wrong during the opening 17 frames.

But if anyone can overturn such a deficit, Higgins – making his 25th appearance in Sheffield – has the required mental strength.

Simply reaching the final has been a huge achievement after Higgins considered retirement before Christmas after a disappointing season.

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He has not been at his best in every session on his way to victories over Mark Davis, Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson, and Saturday’s nail-biting 17-16 win over David Gilbert.

But Higgins – who was in tears after his emotional rollercoaster semi-final – has the steely temperament that is right at home in the Steel City.

Only Hendry (7), Steve Davis (6), Ray Reardon (6) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (5) have won more world titles than the Scot.

This is his eighth Crucible final, it draws him level with Davis, and only one behind Hendry’s record of nine appearances.

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