Judd Trump, winner of last year's UK Championship, is confident of proving that that success was not a one off and more a sign that snooker is experiencing a changing of the guard.
The 22-year-old Bristolian, who beat Ulster's Mark Allen to win that title in York last month, is eager to follow up his first major ranking victory with another title at the Masters, the sport's most prestigious invitational event, which begins at its new home of Alexandra Palace tomorrow. The sport's elite 16 players will compete over the next eight days for a £150,000 first prize.
"I don't want to be a one-hit wonder, but I know I'm not going to be and I've proved that by winning two titles," said Trump. "Winning the UK Championship gave me lots of confidence, it was nice to win such a big tournament as my first major title. But I felt as though that victory was coming after getting to the Crucible final last season.
"And the month before I'd won the China Open, so I was buzzing to be honest. I felt I could beat anyone. But I'm an even better player now – and winning titles gives you that extra belief."
Trump came within a whisker of winning the World Championship last season with an inspired run in Sheffield and has not looked back since. Victories over some of the sport's most established players during the past 18 months has seen Trump firmly establish himself as a household name. The former English junior champion, who has pocketed nearly half a million pounds in prize money since his rise to No 8 in the world rankings, craves more success.
While Trump is on the way up, the more established players have been struggling for form. The four-times Masters champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has threatened to finally quit the sport which has brought him plenty of both pleasure and pain. Stephen Hendry, the seven-times world champion, is not competing in this year's Masters for the first time in 24 years, while other well-known players such as Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Ken Doherty have now seen their best days. "There definitely is a changing of the guard, so hopefully I can be the player that dominates," added Trump. "It's going to be tough because there's a lot of great players still, and a lot of young ones coming through like me. But I feel as though I'm getting better and better, I feel as though it is my time."
Trump faces Stuart Bingham, this season's Australian Open winner, in the first round of this year's £500,000 tournament, with victory earning the attacking left-hander a mouth-watering meeting with either Ding Junhui, the defending champion, or tournament favourite O'Sullivan.
Masters draw (all matches best of 11 frames):
Tomorrow 1.30pm: Ding Junhui v Ronnie O'Sullivan; 7pm: Mark Williams v Stephen Maguire. Monday 12.30: Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham; 7pm: Shaun Murphy v Martin Gould. Tuesday 12.30: John Higgins v Matthew Stevens; 7pm: Neil Robertson v Mark Allen. Wednesday (12.30) Mark Selby v Stephen Lee, (7pm) Ali Carter v Graeme Dott.
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