The one-time talent hasn’t won a ranking event for 19 months after a brilliant run in which he won so many trophies he needed a new fireplace.
His 9-7 victory over Zhang Anda ends the drought and suggests continued success in the coming months. He achieved this by showing an iron will to pull himself out of the deep quagmire.
Trump is often praised for his talent and flamboyance. And that’s how it should be. As a shooter, he is unrivaled. Sometimes, however, you just have to be very committed and compete hard.
He led 7-3 and was outplayed by an inspired Zhang. To have any chance of turning things around, he had to stay positive and hope for a chance. It happened when in the next frame Zhang missed the blue, the first crack in his armory, and Trump pounced on him.
From that point on, he was the only winner. Zhang appeared in his first final, which was evident in the later stages. Meanwhile, Trump sniffed the winning line and rushed towards it.
Last season, Trump won the Masters, one of snooker’s most prized trophies, but only reached one ranking final and was eliminated in the first round of the world championship. It was a disappointing campaign for a player who had happily become accustomed to being the last man on the pitch.
Throughout his life, Sundays were associated with snooker. As a boy, Trump dazzled at junior events across the UK. His father, Steve, was a truck driver who sacrificed his weekends to hit the highways again, taking his talented son wherever there was something interesting going on.
At the age of 10, Trump won the English Under-15 title. He turned professional at 16 to the usual clamor that accompanies young prospects. It took him a few years to adjust to the higher standard, but at the age of 21 he won the China Open, reached his first World Championship final and established himself as a top player and representative of the new generation.
His problem was that the previous generation wasn’t over yet. Trump won a remarkable 14 ranking titles in three seasons from 2018 to 2021, suggesting he will become the next dominant force in snooker, but since winning the world title in 2019 he has seen Ronnie O’Sullivan win it twice . Just over a week ago, Mark Williams won the British Open. John Higgins led Trump to decisive semi-finals at the European Masters and again in Brentwood.
Additionally, players slightly older than Trump, such as Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy, are still capable of playing at the highest level, while Luca Brecel, six years his junior, has won the greatest title of all.
Trump, however, remains a very dedicated player, with a solid foundation of practice overseen by his brother Jack. He is one of the best potters the game has ever seen and an inventive player who can play with power shots that many other players struggle with. As such, he scores a lot of points and his safety game has improved significantly over the years.
He had a poor run last season and seemed to have lost confidence. Even at the Masters, he came close to defeat several times before defeating Williams in the final. Anthony McGill defeated him in the first round at the Crucible.
It doesn’t take long for even the best to be challenged.
Did Trump have a problem with his technique? Its operation is certainly unconventional. He appears to give off-line guidance before adjusting at impact. It’s not something every coach would teach, but it works for him. The answer came after the semi-final comeback against Higgins. Under pressure, his technique allowed him to survive from 5-2. It was a moving display that left Higgins saying he felt like he had been “hit by a train.” Zhang can empathize. He described Trump as a “monster” after losing the final six frames of the final.
That may be true on the table, but Trump is in many ways typical of the greats of snooker, a sport that naturally attracts introverts. Barry Hearn claims that Steve Davis didn’t say a word for the first two years they met. Stephen Hendry admits his shyness as a boy was chronic, but the snooker table was his escape. Even a figure as big as O’Sullivan stated that it took him years to feel comfortable in his own skin.
In darkened rooms where a lot of snooker is played, such personalities can be drawn into activities that require little conversation and minimal social contact. They finally find each other. Davis has recently DJed at Wembley Stadium and Glastonbury, and Hendry is a gregarious YouTube and podcast host.
Trump was painfully shy when he first turned professional, but he became an exceptionally good communicator in interviews, giving thoughtful answers and not always toeing the party line. Likes to have fun but avoids trouble.
At 24th in the rankings, he remains one spot behind Williams and just four behind Davis, who ranks fourth on the all-time list. This is a great springboard for the upcoming season and an important boost of confidence after several disappointing defeats.
Trump’s success is also good news for snooker. The audience loves his unique playing style, especially the striking show shots where the white sparkles around the table in unexpected directions. As Eurosport pundit Neal Foulds once put it: “Judd isn’t so much talking down the cue ball as getting it to confess to unsolved crimes from the 1970s.”
Many top players have had barren periods. Higgins once went three years between ranking wins. O’Sullivan won the Masters seven times, but 10 years passed between his first and second success. Williams dropped off the radar before a golden season in which he won his third world championship.
Trump will be hoping that the shaky run is now behind him as he faces a busy period in the calendar. If he maintains the concentration he showed at Brentwood, he will surely secure more trophies.
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