Judd Trump is gunning for a Northern Ireland Open hat-trick and says he’d relish the prospect of a final with old foe Ronnie O’Sullivan, writes Will Jennings.
The Juddernaut breezed into the second round in Milton Keynes after toppling world No.74 Gerard Greene 4-1 and is bidding to win the event for a historic third year running.
World No.1 Trump lowered O’Sullivan’s colours in the last two finals in Belfast, winning gripping contests 9-7 but now defending his crown across the Irish Sea as snooker adapts to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The atmosphere of the Waterfront Hall may be missing but Trump, fresh off the back of his English Open victory last month, says he’d still love a battle with the Rocket in the final.
The 31-year-old, who would become the first player to win the same ranking event for three years running since the great Stephen Hendry in 1996, said: “It would be special.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) November 16, 2020
“I think we’ve been due to meet in the last tournament if we both won, and we haven’t played each other for a while. Obviously Ronnie sooner or later will win an event, but hopefully I can keep in the tournament and we can have that rematch again.
“I think this is only one of a couple of tournaments that I’ve won twice, so to win three in a row would be pretty special.
“They were two of the best finals I’ve played in and the standard has been incredible. The atmosphere over there is also incredible – it’s up there with the final of Germany and the final of the Masters.
“The crowd really get behind you there and I’ve had some amazing support over there.
“I’m disappointed not to be over there but hopefully I can maintain my record, get three in a row, take it back and defend it in Northern Ireland.”
A steady break of 75 from Greene, who hails from Northern Ireland, gave Trump work to do but the 2019 world champion rattled off four consecutive frames to book his place in the last 64.
The 18-time ranking event winner, who has won his last ten major finals, composed majestic breaks of 105, 88 and 55 and is bidding for an upturn in fortunes after losing in the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions.
Trump was thrashed 6-1 by eventual winner Mark Allen in that event, one of several that currently saturate a hectic snooker calendar behind closed doors.
The planet’s leading player hailed the authorities for ensuring so many events went ahead – and reckons the volume of snooker makes it feel like there’s no lockdown at all.
Northern Ireland Open starts today where Judd Trump's attempting to win the title for a 3rd straight year. The last player to win the same ranking event 3 years running was Stephen Hendry (UK Championship 1994-96). Starts Eurosport at 12.45pm! (Eurosport App from 10) #homenations
— David Hendon (@davehendon) November 16, 2020
“It’s amazing the amount of tournaments we’ve got with what’s going on,” he added.
“I think everyone has done an amazing job to keep us playing. Snooker players are one of the only people in the world that don’t even realise we’re in lockdown! That’s how much snooker we’re playing.
“We’re always busy and it’s nice to have a tournament literally every single week – even if you lose, and I had a bad loss in the Champion of Champions, you come here and you’ve got another tournament to come to.
“It’s easy to practice and get back up for the events and with everything going on, you’ve just got to stay positive.”