Judd Trump wasn’t at his best but still had enough in the tank to see off the challenge of Stuart Bingham in round one of The Masters at Alexandra Palace.
The UK Champion defeated his fellow Englishman 6-3, claiming the last four frames of a match that, at times, looked like it could have proved substantially tougher.
Trump began his quest to win back-to-back major titles in convincing style by taking the opening frame with a break of 87 but his opponent won three out of the next four frames to lead 3-2.
Bingham, indeed, was getting plenty of chances from 22 year-old Trump but the Australian Open champion wasted several of them as he struggled to find any fluency.
Trump too failed to find the form that saw him claim his second ranking event title in York last month but, after levelling at 3-3, the world number five knocked in a 121 century break to regain the lead.
Once again Bingham had opportunities to provide a tight finish but could not get over the winning line in either of the next two frames allowing Trump in for a flattering scoreline.
While he will no doubt be a little disappointed with his inconsistency, Trump can be reminded of his even more lacklustre performance in the first round of the UKs against Dominic Dale before going on to lift the coveted trophy.
Nevertheless, he will more than likely have to improve for Thursday’s mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The duo have met twice in the last couple of months in two exhilarating clashes that were both claimed by the younger player in deciders.
Yet, despite the change in venue for this year, The Masters is O’Sullivan’s turf, or baize if you will, having contested nine finals over the course of his illustrious career – winning four times.
In the second match on Monday, Shaun Murphy overcame the challenge of Martin Gould with a 6-2 triumph.
‘Pinner Potter’ Gould had plenty of support from the big crowd on his debut being a Londoner himself and appeared to thrive on that at the outset with some cracking long pots in the early frames.
But after taking the opener, he missed a routine green with the second frame at his mercy that allowed his opponent in to level and lost his way somewhat thereafter.
Murphy won four of the next five frames to go within one of place in the last eight and completed victory in style with a 139 century break – the highest of the tournament so far and his second ton of the contest following an earlier 107.
The former world and UK champion has never performed that well in this event but could become only the eighth player to win all three major titles if he was to go on and emerge victorious on Sunday.
He wasn’t flawless today but certainly showed enough to suggest that he will be a difficult player to dispatch as he continues the form that saw him enjoy a successful few days at the Championship League last week.
Tomorrow offers another superb bout of action as two former winners collide in John Higgins and Matthew Stevens while Mark Allen and Neil Robertson meet in a battle of the lefties.