Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Crucible Countdown: The return of Judd Trump

All eyes will be on Judd Trump in Sheffield this year after the heroics he produced here last time out.

The 22-year-old Bristolian was the star of the Crucible last season as he marched through the qualifiers, reached the final and was only denied the title of world champion at the final hurdle.

Picture by Monique Limbos
John Higgins was - in the end - a worthy winner but Judd had stole all the headlines, for sure.

His outrageous attacking ability wowed the Crucible crowd and it was clear a new star of snooker had been born. His victory at the tournament before, the China Open, was actually where it all started but only a few expected him to replicate the form he showed there on the biggest stage.

Stepping up to the plate was not a problem for Judd. He arrived in Sheffield with a dash of confidence from  his first ranking event win and picked up exactly where he left off. He was potting balls for fun, bulldozing down his opponents and playing without a care in the world.

His shot selection was fearless and he won admiration for lighting up the great venue. Comparisons were drawn between him and the legendary Jimmy White.

While Judd will enjoy being held in such high regard so early in his career, he'll also be keen not to adopt the Whirlwind's 'nearly man' tag after he lost out in no fewer than six World Championship finals.

Trump will be desperate to get his name on the great Crucible trophy, sooner rather than later because he believes he belongs alongside the very best.

This might sound a strange thing to say about a player so young but Judd will come back to the Crucible with a feeling of unfinished business. He enjoyed all the highs here a year ago. His experience had everything except the title at the end.

The big difference this time is expectation. Judd has gone from a raw, potential talent to one of the game's leading lights. The fans loved every second of watching him last time but they will want more of the same; and expect him to perform this time.

For a player like Judd, this isn't a problem. He's a natural showman, who loves to entertain and rises to the big occasion.

He's already got used to a season being the player everyone wants to beat. In that time, he's added the UK Championship to his trophy cabinet and climbed up to number two in the world rankings. He can clearly handle life at the top.

He's gone full-steam ahead this season and will be ready to raise it one last time for the biggest title of them all.

Don't expect Judd to change his game either. He obviously feeds off putting on a show for the fans and at his devastating best, his attacking game is too good for anyone. But you must be more than just a potter to triumph at the Crucible. He's been beaten plenty of times this season, often when he's taken one too many shots on.

A year ago everything was going his way. It would be wrong for him to curb his attacking instincts this year but, when things don't quite go for him, he needs to find another way to win. It might not always be possible to pot his way out of trouble.

The key to his success in Sheffield this season could be dependent on how he controls himself at the key moments in the tournament.

The buzz in the venue when Judd plays this year will be extraordinary. The fans won't forget how he dazzled last season but, in order to come away with the trophy this time, he has to show a year's worth of maturity to go alongside his incredible natural game. He could lift the title because of the balls he doesn't take on, rather than those that he does.

Judd is going to be up for this big time. Stand by your beds.

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