Judd Trump became the fifth player in snooker history – and first for a decade – to win three consecutive ranking titles as he crushed Chris Wakelin 9-3 in the final of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
From 2-1 down, Trump confirmed his status as the best player on the planet on current form as he won eight of the last nine frames with three centuries and four more breaks over 50 to take the £80,000 top prize and the Alex Higgins Trophy.
In an extraordinary October, Trump has also captured the BetVictor English Open and Wuhan Open titles, a winning streak of 20 consecutive matches which has earned him £300,000. The only other players to have landed three ranking titles on the spin are Ray Reardon, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and most recently in 2013, Ding Junhui. It’s his fourth Northern Ireland Open crown having taken the top prize in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and he extends the sequence of exclusively left-handed winners since this event was first staged in 2016.
Bristol’s 34-year-old Trump moves on to 26 career ranking titles, ahead of Mark Williams and behind only Ronnie O’Sullivan (39), Hendry (36), John Higgins (31) and Davis (28). He extends his lead at the top of the one-year rankings and BetVictor Series list, and though he remains third in the official rankings, he closes the gap on leader O’Sullivan to just £10,000. He will go to the International Championship in China in early November with his sights on the top spot, and the chance to become the second player to win four straight ranking titles, chasing Hendry’s record of five in a row set in 1990.
Wakelin, playing the biggest match of his life, started strongly and led 2-1, but then could do little to stop an outstanding opponent at the top of his game. Nuneaton’s Wakelin missed the chance to double his tally of ranking titles having landed the BetVictor Shoot Out in January. Still, the 31-year-old has made huge strides forward in his career this year and the £35,000 runner-up cheque lifts him to 21st in the world rankings.
Trump did most of the damage in the opening session, taking a 6-2 lead. A packed house at the Waterfront Hall may have hoped for a Wakelin fight back, but instead they were treated to a Trump potting masterclass as he fired runs of 101 and 125 to extend the advantage to 8-2.
He had first chance in frame 11 but ran out of position at 31-0. Wakelin responded with 52, then got the better of a safety exchange and added the points he needed for 8-3. But the underdog couldn’t bring the contest to a mid-session interval as Trump stroked in a long red to initiate a match-winning 129, bringing cheers from the crowd as he finished with a series of exhibition shots.
“Things have happened so fast over the last three weeks, it feels surreal now and it has not sunk in,” said 2019 World Champion Trump. “The last session tonight was the best I have felt in the whole 20-match run, I felt really sharp. Once I get in front I can relax, play my best and over-power my opponents. When you are playing well, people miss at the right times, you scrape through in deciders and live to fight another day. Mentally I have been in a good place when the chances come up.
“You have to remember how many tight games I have won. I could have lost all of them, they are often a 50-50 shoot out. The margins are so fine in snooker and when it’s your time you have to take advantage.
“I’ve had a lot of tournament wins within the last five years. There have still been people saying I have not been playing well, maybe because they expect more from me. It’s the same with Jack Lisowski, I suppose we make the game look easy sometimes that people expect even more. But it’s not that easy.
“Chris has improved a lot and scores heavily, he looks more confident on the shot. He works on his weaknesses, which a lot of players don’t. That has really helped him and it’s nice to see someone out there with a smile on his face in such a great arena.”
Wakelin said: “It has been magical for me. Winning the Shoot Out was phenomenal, but to get to the final of an event like this, with such a great crowd was amazing. If I could pick anyone to play in the final it would be Judd. One day I’ve got to beat him, I think he has paid off his mortgage just from matches against me.
“When I was 2-1 up I thought ‘here we go, I’ve got this in the bag!’ But Judd has won the last three tournaments, he is one of the best players ever to play the game and I hope he keeps that going for the rest of the season. This time last year I was in a bad place but the last 12 months have been great for me, on and off the table. To have the privilege to play in this arena tonight was fantastic.”
Article by WST.