Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Looking ahead: Trump v O'Sullivan

Four-time and defending world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan against the master of naughty snooker Judd Trump in the semi-finals at the Crucible: It's a mouthwatering prospect.

That dream tie is now a reality after the world number three Judd came through a classic 13-12 against Shaun Murphy and Ronnie put Stuart Bingham to the sword 13-4.

Unmissable. That's the best word to use to describe it - but excatly what can we look forward to?

Let's start with Judd. He won a quarter-final that had everything. It was box office quality. It was match of the tournament by a country mile.

It highlighted the beauty of the longer format matches at the Crucible. Trump found himself frustratingly 6-2 down after a poor first session. This set his critics out in force but, if there's one thing Judd doesn't lack, it's confidence.

After a two-hour afternoon sleep and a pep talk from his friends, family and management team, he came back fighting. He produced a string of five straight frames to level 8-8  from 8-3 down and set up a final session where the real drama played out.

Trump and Murphy were toe-to-toe throughout taking chunks out of each other with clinical breaks and astute safety. The determination in the eyes of both men was immense. You could sense that victory would create a launchpad to go on to lift the title for both of them.

In the end, it took a 53-minute decider to separate them and Trump's dramatic win proved he is getting better with age and adding new tools to his kit. He showed incredible fighting spirit and courage to turn the match on its head and then tough it out to the winning line.

If he can consistently produce this matchplay fight and couple it with his more natural long potting ability, which is gradually creeping back to its best, and his great touch in the balls then he will regularly beat players of Murphy's even if they're at their best.

Picture by Monqiue Limbos
Now, what about Ronnie? He's a different beast. He's produced some excellent snooker in his return to the Crucible. He's been installed as the heavy favourite for the contest, and indeed the title.

It's been scary to see how he's returned after a long break and immediately set about his task of carving through the field. He looks a level above the rest. He's played the best snooker of this tournament. His scoring has been mesmerising.

He found himself 12-1 up at one stage in his match against Bingham and was in unstoppable mode. This is what Ronnie brings to the table. He seems to be able to take his performance up a gar when it really matters in matches and kill his opponents off quickly. To beat Ronnie, you have to keep with him, but no one has managed it so far.

The way in which Ronnie has come back and torn through the field makes it feel like a fifth world title is almost written in the stars.

But Judd has plans to stop him in his tracks. He isn't scared of Ronnie and says he won't be intimidated by him on the table.

I've always thought that Trump is one of just a small pocket of players at the top of the game with the mentality to beat O'Sullivan. He relishes the big occasion and has complete belief in his own ability.

Of course, he has great respect for the four-time champion. He's been there and done it and has vastly more experience, but he knows he can rattle him.

O'Sullivan has had everything his own way so far in this championship. He has been the front-runner in all of his matches and dictated in every department. With a good start Judd can test the other side of his game. We're likely to see what O'Sullivan is really like this year when he's put under pressure and maybe asked to come from behind.

These two players are the real crowd pleasers in the game and their match promises to be an absolute classic. Make sure you don't miss it.

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