Two Englishmen will contest the International Championship final on Sunday – with Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy bidding for the coveted title in Daqing.
The current world champion continued his fine form of late, outlining just why he’ll be rubber stamped as the new world number one after the conclusion of this event following a 9-4 demolition of Mark Selby in the last four.
Murphy appeared to be heading for a similarly one-sided triumph, racing six frames clear of defending champion Mark Allen in Saturday’s second semi-final clash.
But the “Magician” only scrambled over the winning line with a 9-6 victory that is unlikely to inflict much fear on Trump.
The latter will undoubtedly begin tomorrow’s International Championship final showdown as the favourite for glory.
Trump has looked the man to beat and is riding a wave of confidence that peaked during his outstanding Crucible defeat of John Higgins in May.
That the 29 year-old, who also bagged a maiden Masters crown at the outset of 2019, has begun the 2019/20 campaign in similar fashion ensures that an ominous message is being sent out to the chasing pack.
Trump looks like a player who has finally come of age, fully realising the talent that he has always possessed and ready to potentially make an attempt at dominating the sport.
It’s unusual for a first-time world champion to have a strong following season on the circuit, let alone begin it by reaching a major ranking event title decider.
For all intents and purposes, it looks as though Trump has enjoyed his celebrations but has equally made it a priority to get straight back to business.
— Judd trump (@judd147t) August 9, 2019
Against Murphy, Trump will come up against a formidable opponent who is finally rediscovering some of his lost magic.
The 2018/19 term was practically a complete write-off for the 2005 world champion after a plethora of early exits in tournaments sent him plummeting down the rankings list.
However, Murphy celebrated his 37th birthday today with a victory over his close pal Allen and his performances this week have not only safeguarded his position in the top 16, but also guaranteed his spot in next month’s lucrative Shanghai Masters invitational.
In that regard, the pressure is somewhat off his shoulders and maybe he’ll be able to relax as he searches for an eighth ranking title.
That said, the duo’s recent record in finals could not be any more different.
While Trump has emerged with the silverware in five out of his last six ranking finals, Murphy has been on the losing side of proceedings in his last five straight appearances at this stage.
The head-to-head between the pair is close, though, with Trump boasting a marginally superior record from their previous encounters with one another.
Murphy got the better of their only prior affair in a final, albeit that was over only the best of seven frames when he captured the Gibraltar Open at Trump’s expense in 2017.
This International Championship final will be played over a much testier 19 frames, with a whopping £175,000 top prize on offer.
As usual with these kinds of contests, the underdog will need to get off to a quick start and that can’t be any more obvious when the challenge waiting on the other side of the table is Trump.
With ten centuries already to his name this week, Trump’s ability to race through a session with a barrage of heavy scoring is what could, and probably will, act as the major difference.