Thursday afternoon, relaxing in hometown Bristol before a weekend trip to Ireland, China Open champion Judd Trump comes to the horrible realisation that he has left his passport in London.
Although he has played in Ireland before for the PTC Grand Finals last March, this will be the 21 year-old’s first experience of exhibition life in the Emerald Isle and, passport retrieved, he makes it over safely the following day for a trip up the N2 to Monaghan.
“I’ve never played an exhibition over here before. There hasn’t been a lot of snooker in Ireland recently so it is nice to come over and promote it a little bit more. Hopefully the game grows again like it used to be over here in Ireland.”
Of course, Trump has earned the right to be a big international draw following last season’s breakthrough success in Beijing and his memorable World Championship run immediately after.
Having been touted as a future star since he was still in single digits, Trump turned professional when he was 15.
Almost six years later, despite victories in the 2008 Masters Qualification tournament and the 2009 Championship League, Trump had failed to break into the elite Top 16 or contest a major final.
“I wasn’t that surprised by it. I know how hard it is in the qualifiers and everyone else who has been there knows how hard it is. Obviously, I would have hoped to emerge through a lot quicker but as soon as I turned professional I realised how difficult it was going to be so you have got to be patient.
But yeah it was nice to kick-start my career in China. I am finally into the Top 16 and playing at all the big venues now so this year is going to be big for me. Hopefully I can have a good start to the season next month in Shanghai because I’m still full of confidence since the World Championship and China.”
Indeed, Trump’s swashbuckling run to the final in Sheffield has perhaps heralded a new dawn in snooker.
His attacking, flamboyant style of play endeared him to millions as he rode the wave of confidence following his maiden ranking event triumph in the Far East.
“I knew that if I went out and played my game that maybe I could beat Neil or run him close but when I got there it was such a different atmosphere from China. The crowd is so much closer which means it is a lot more nerve-wracking to play in the World Championship but since I got over that first game it kind of just clicked into place. I went for my shots and they were all going in.”
Despite a route to the final that included two world champions in Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott, and a two-time UK champion in Ding Junhui, Trump admitted to being a little shocked at how straight forward his progress turned out to be – until the last four, at least.
“It kind of surprised me how easy it was. The first game I could have won a little easier than I did and the next two were kind of more or less over after 10 frames because I had built up such a big lead. Going into the Ding game I knew it was going to be tough but I didn’t expect it to be that tough. I played my best and still only won 17-15 which just shows how good he is.
In the final [against John Higgins], I was disappointed but I wasn’t overly disappointed. I didn’t expect to get there and it would have been nice to win it the first time but I went out and played my game and I need to learn from that. There was only a couple of shots here and there that cost me the match really.
I had a lead and I began to take on some silly balls that perhaps I should have played safe from but, at the time, I thought I was going to get it so I went for it. I don’t regret anything in that match, though – I went out and played all the balls that I thought I was going to pot so I enjoyed it. It was an amazing couple of weeks and I just have to go back and learn from it.”
Since the final at The Crucible, it has been widely speculated that the young maestro has enjoyed himself off the baize – relishing the impact of his new-found stardom in the sport.
In an article in the Daily Star shortly after last season ended, Jimmy White urged Trump not to “make the same mistakes as me” in over partying and evading necessary practice time.
Some are echoing those thoughts after the inconspicuous start to the new season for Trump but ‘The Ace’ isn’t too worried about it.
“You have got to take Jimmy’s advice on board. He’s a legend really in snooker so you have to listen to him but obviously I’m going to be myself. I’m not that kind of person anyway, I wouldn’t go out every night and if there is a tournament on I wont go out at all because I still know that snooker comes first. Snooker is what pays for everything and I have practiced all these years to become a top professional so I would not want to mess it up now I’m here.
The poor start to the season is because I haven’t practiced as much since the World Championship. I have just got into the swing of things now because I kind of let myself have a month off simply to get over what happened in China and then the World. So I wasn’t disappointed at all, I knew it was going to be tough and it showed with a lot of other top players going out early like John Higgins himself.
I say the season starts now for me. Going into the next tournament and then Shanghai, I’d say that is when the form will come back.”
A couple of years ago this relaxed attitude may not have been possible but, with the influx of new events during the Barry Hearn era, Trump and all the other players know that they have more opportunities to be successful throughout a long, arduous campaign.
“A couple of seasons ago you were playing a tournament, then having one or two months off and you didn’t feel like a professional snooker player. Now I think the balance is right. It is nice to be playing every week and keeping your eye in all the time because your standard gets so much better when you are playing this often.
This season I think it would be nice if I could get off to a good start and win a tournament early. However, there are so many great players that you might not win one so I’ve just got to be patient. Obviously, if I don’t win one people are going to be on my back saying that maybe it was just a bit lucky last season but I know that I can go anywhere in the world and win tournaments now. No matter how long it takes, I know that I’ll be back winning again.”
Trump’s ambitions lie at the very top and, having almost tasted the World Championship trophy, he is intent on grabbing it with both hands more than once throughout his career.
“I know how hard it will be but hopefully two or three times. Ronnie has won it three times so to get anywhere near what he has done with the amount of talent he has would be a special achievement I think.”
Although very outgoing on the baize, Trump actually appears relatively quiet off it and it is clear that family means a lot to the Englishman.
“Moving away was hard. First, I went to Sheffield and then I went to Romford after so the season before last was a bit of a write-off with so much moving about.
My dad used to come to all the tournaments but last season he didn’t come to as many. It was disappointing for him not to be there in China but he watched it on TV. Because of that, it was really nice to do so well in Sheffield with the whole family and everyone there. I had loads of support come up – it’s like a different type of pressure when you’re family is there and it was perfect to produce in front of them.”
Undoubtedly, it will not be the last time that he has the pleasure of claiming success in front of his loved ones. This is only the beginning of what will surely be a historic career.
Evidently a nice guy, my only gripe was that at the end of the interview he promised a 147 in the exhibition.
Despite coming close, he ultimately failed on a couple of occasions only to have the audacity to fire in a maximum the following night in Dundalk – when I wasn’t there. The cheek!