Judd Trump believes he has the game finally to be crowned Crucible champion.
The Bristol potter first played at the World Championship as a rookie 17-year-old in 2007 – the third-youngest to play at the home of snooker, behind Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
He looked destined to lift the title in 2011 when he blitzed through the competition with an exciting brand of long potting and quick-fire shots, only to be denied in the final by John Higgins.
But the former UK champion, now 25, has developed his all-round game and looks a serious contender for Mark Selby’s crown.
He was a convincing 10-6 winner against Grimsby’s Stuart Carrington yesterday, setting up a second-round showdown with Marco Fu.
But unlike previous years, he seems happy to avoid the limelight in his quest to conquer the world’s best.
“I will just stay quietly confident and go about my business, and, hopefully, I can keep playing like I am,” said Trump.
“I don’t really want to give too much away, but I know that if I play well then I have a very good chance.
“The further you get into the tournament the more comfortable you feel. The next couple of rounds are where you try to find your form.
“In my eyes Neil Robertson is favourite to win the tournament. Neil and Mark Selby are going to be the toughest two, but I’m confident I can beat anybody. A lot of players are playing well, a lot of players fancy their chances. Ding and Higgins are coming back to form so instead of three or four contenders there are six or seven of them. For the viewers it’s going to be an excellent tournament.”
The world No 6 led 7-2 overnight, but saw Carrington refuse to wilt, fighting back to cut the deficit to 9-6 and earn praise on his Crucible debut.
“I thought I was always in control against Stuart, I didn’t do a lot wrong,” said Trump. “All aspects of my game were pretty good.
“Stuart played exceptionally well, better than anyone I’ve ever seen on their debut, so he can take massive credit from that.
“The balls weren’t quite running for me so I just needed to stay patient.
“Marco will be as tough as anyone; any game from this stage is a tough one so it’s just about going out and playing the table.”
Another player coming into Sheffield with strong support is Shaun Murphy.
It is a decade since he won the world title; the then Rotherham resident was a 125-1 outsider for the trophy in 2005.
Now living in Nottingham, the 32-year-old current Masters champion also had little difficulty in avoiding a potential opening banana skin, beating Finland’s Robin Hull 10-3 last night.
Murphy collected the three frames needed in last night’s second session – including a century to get over the line – to turn his 7-2 lead into victory and a second-round meeting with Joe Perry.
Victories for Trump and Murphy mean there have been few shocks at the Crucible in the opening six days of first-round action.
Only three of the top 16 seeds have gone out, and one of those, Ricky Walden, actually exited at the hands of former Crucible champion Graeme Dott.
Stephen Maguire was pipped 10-9 by rising star Anthony McGill, while Mark Williams was the only genuine shock as he lost 10-2 to fellow Welshman Matthew Stevens. You have to go back to 2009 for fewer top-16 casualties, when only two crashed out in the first round.
One of the players to break the stranglehold of the game’s elite is Glasgow’s McGill.
The 24-year-old faced defending champion Mark Selby yesterday in his second-round match, and was unlucky not to finish the first session 5-3 ahead.
McGill saw his 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 deficit, before battling back to go 4-3 ahead against the world No 1.
Selby looked in control in frame eight, but McGill forced a snooker only to miss the final black, which would have forced a re-spot, and the Leicester potter nipped in to level at 4-4 heading into this morning’s second of three sessions.
McGill has impressed many on the Tour, including five-time world champion O’Sullivan.
“You see players come and go and others who come and stay and McGill’s coming and staying,” said O’Sullivan.
“He’s been at the UK Championship, had a good run, he’s got an appetite for the game and I love to see that, because that’s the new breed of players coming through.
“I’m sure he might get his hands on this trophy one day and he deserves it more than anyone because he loves the sport and you can never keep people like that down.”
Last night, Sheffield-based Ding Junhui was 5-3 down in his best-of-25 frame second-round match against John Higgins.