Snooker: Trump loving life in the fast lane since run at the Crucible
It's been all girls, cars and TV shows since May – now for UK Championship
Judd Trump is living the dream.
He's bought a sports car, he wants to buy another to sit alongside it, and he freely admits to getting "a lot of attention from girls" since his inspired run to the final of snooker's World Championship last spring.
Eight months ago, the Bristolian was just another snooker player trying to make his mark on the professional circuit. The game was crying out for a new gem with the stars of yesteryear having fallen out of form and down the pecking order. Those such as Steve Davis, Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry (even Ronnie O'Sullivan to an extent) have all seen their best days come and go.
Then "something clicked" says Trump, the likeable 22-year-old tipped to be snooker's saviour. He found himself centre of attention with his dazzling run to the final of the World Championship last year. He shone for 17 days at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, knocking out Neil Robertson, the defending champion, Graeme Dott, a former world champion, and Ding Junhui, the two-time UK champion.
The left-hander, who was likened to a young White, then produced a battling performance beyond his years to run John Higgins close in a gripping final. A relieved Higgins emerged with a hard-fought 18-15 win but Trump earned all the plaudits. Having won the China Open a month earlier – his first ranking title – Trump pocketed £185,000 in a month, and made himself a household name.
"It's been a great few months since the World Championship, I can't believe how fast things have gone," Trump told The Independent ahead of the UK Championship, snooker's second biggest tournament, which starts today at the York Barbican. "I've just tried to enjoy myself as much as possible, I don't really think it's sunk in what I achieved at the Crucible, but I do get a lot more attention these days, it's great when people come up to you in the street and say how much they enjoyed the way I played in Sheffield. I've had that quite often."
With his rapid rise up the rankings into the world's top eight, Trump has also had to accustom himself to the trappings of success. "I treated myself to an Audi R8 after the season finished, which was nice," he said. "I've got my eye on another sports car, but I need to win a few more tournaments if I'm going to afford that one.
"Playing in every tournament this season is such a different feeling. People expect me to do well and I'm going into matches as the favourite. I don't mind that, I suppose I was always going to get that extra pressure. But it's up to me how I handle that pressure.
"I've done OK so far, but I want to win as many titles as I can and eventually be world No 1. That's always been my ambition.
"I don't know what it was, but something clicked at the China Open against Marco Fu and from then I just felt I could win every match. But even I didn't think I could go on the amazing run that I did [in Sheffield]. It wasn't until I beat Neil Robertson that I felt I had nothing to lose.
"It's great being recognised, I've had a lot of attention from girls and had the chance to meet a lot of celebrities and sports people. I'm a big Manchester United fan and I got the chance to meet Dwight Yorke, which was pretty cool, and I did a radio show with Freddie Flintoff. It was just great to meet those guys.
"I've been on A Question of Sport and done a lot of other things I wouldn't do, which I've enjoyed. It's just part and parcel of being a top sportsman, I love that."
Last month he beat three-time World Champion O'Sullivan to win one of the new Players Tour Championship matches but now the serious business of trying to win major titles starts with the UK Championship, followed by the Masters in January and then the World Championship in April. "I'd love to go back to the Crucible and do what I did last season, but obviously go that one step better and win this time," said Trump.
"But I've not had the best start to the season and I really want to perform in these next few events, the calendar gets really busy now. I've played well in the PTC events but didn't do well in Australia, which wasn't a great tournament because the crowds were poor, and then I lost early in the Shanghai Masters. But all the best players want to be successful at our major events. Those tournaments are the pinnacle of our sport."
Trump plays Welshman Dominic Dale in the first round of the UK event, with a new format of best-of-11 frame matches, a change from best-of-17. "It's definitely a tough game," said Trump. "He can play really poorly or really well.
"I'm not a big fan of them changing the format this season, I think [World Snooker chairman] Barry Hearn needs to look at that because a lot of the players aren't happy, but I'm going to York full of confidence, hopefully I can win another title to kick-start my season."
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