The Final

From DC Sport:

Snooker great John Higgins and young pretender Judd Trump contest the World Snooker Championship final today and tomorrow in what promises to be a fascinating contest.

Higgins, champion in 1998, 2007 and 2009, has probably suffered the more difficult route to the final but it is his young adversary who everyone is talking about with such excitement.

The Bristol 21 year-old is the youngest Crucible finalist since the record breaking Stephen Hendry triumphed in his first of seven titles back in 1990 and the general aura surrounding Sheffield is that Trump could be on a similar path to super stardom.

Indeed, he is perhaps already there. Trump entered the event having won his maiden major ranking event in the China Open last month and has now gone an impressive nine matches undefeated.

13 years ago, as a shy 8 year-old, Trump was interviewed about his snooker because everyone could see the potential for greatness much the same as the reaction to Tiger Woods when he was swinging a golf club at an even younger age.

Trump turned professional when he was 15 but the journey to success has not always been smooth sailing.

He quickly realised that there is a gulf in class between the amateur ranks and the professional circuit and struggled to cope with the pressures of expectation and the regularity of defeat.

However, this season, possibly through the innovation of a number of extra events on the calendar, Trump has finally excelled and now looks set to become a dominant force in the sport.

His semi-final encounter with Ding Junhui was one of the most entertaining of any last four battles at The Crucible and their rivalry could be the future of snooker as it heads into what many believe will be a golden era for the game.

Whether Trump can go all the way in only his second attempt in the World Championship depends on if he can handle the intense pressure of a determined John Higgins.

This day last year the Scotsman’s world was torn apart by allegations of bribery and frame fixing that eventually resulted in him being cleared overall, but suspended for six months for bringing the sport into disrepute.

Not everyone has forgiven Higgins and that was proven by an untimely outburst from a member of the audience in yesterday’s clash with Mark Williams when the protester shouted “You are a disgrace and a cheat.”

Higgins was visibly upset by the heckler – yet went on to make a laudable century – but he should not be surprised by it and has perhaps become too relaxed given the general high level of support he has received since his return.

Higgins, though, probably feels that it is his destiny to win a fourth crown – not only because of the scandal of 2010 but also in memory of his father who sadly passed away in February this year.

To his credit, the 35 year-old has played superbly since his comeback and has already won three tournaments including the UK Championship in December.

He will lose his world number one spot to Williams when the official rankings list is revised at the conclusion of the tournament but Higgins would boast that position had he been eligible for all the events in the season so, in reality, Trump is playing the best player there is at the moment.

Of the two, though, Trump has played by far the better snooker in the last two weeks and if he performs with similar flair and confidence over the next couple of days then he will be the man to beat.

Trump would certainly be the more popular winner – many having taken him to their hearts much the same as Alex Higgins, Jimmy White or Ronnie O’Sullivan did so instantly back when they emerged – but Higgins will certainly not be there to play an extra role in a fairytale ending for the young man.

Higgins will be desperate for a fairytale ending of his own following such a tumultuous and topsy-turvy 12 months.

The result is a mouthwatering battle of youth and experience, a player who will become a legend against someone that already is one, and to confidently predict an eventual winner is exceedingly difficult.

There hasn’t been a final frame decider in Sheffield for nine years and this final could easily come down to a nerve-jangling moment like that.


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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the Northern Ireland Open – won by Mark Allen.

1. Judd Trump
2. Mark Selby
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan
4. Neil Robertson
5. Kyren Wilson
6. John Higgins
7. Shaun Murphy
8. Stephen Maguire
9. Mark Allen
10. Ding Junhui
11. Mark Williams
12. Stuart Bingham
13. Yan Bingtao
14. Barry Hawkins
15. Jack Lisowski
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy