Jittery Judd Trump says behind closed doors snooker in Milton Keynes feels like being in China, writes Will Jennings.
The world No.1 survived a scare from Louis Heathcote in his first round match at the English Open and had to battle from 3-1 behind to win a final frame decider.
The maiden Home Nations event of the season is being held behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena, with players requiring a negative coronavirus test to participate and all staying in the same on-site hotel.
The 2019 world champion kept his hopes of a 19th ranking event title alive and reckons the venue felt more like Beijing, not Buckinghamshire, given the circumstances.
“It’s like being in China at times! You’re just on your own, eating on your own and you’ve got to be super careful,” said the 31-year-old.
Trump 4-3 Heathcote— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) October 13, 2020
The world number one overcomes a stern test to reach the second round of the https://t.co/0mCRoqdsmX English Open! 👊
A break of 61 in the last #HomeNations #EnglishOpen @judd147t pic.twitter.com/fHB9tgYTau
“You don’t want to catch it during the tournament or after the tournament and not be able to play in the next one, so it can be quite lonely.
“It’s not my cup of tea - I like to travel and get in my own bed so I’ll be doing that, especially when you’re not really allowed anyone around and it can be quite lonely at times.
“I think so [there are parallels between here and China] - when you’re coming here there’s not much to do, you’ve got to be super careful and you’re sat in the room lots of the time, so it can be quite tough.
“I’m delighted to get through, but he’ll be very disappointed as he had a couple of good chances to win.”
Trump struggled for the fluency that saw him romp to six ranking event titles last season as world No.69 Heathcote made him battle in the first round bout.
The Bristol potter took the first frame with a steady break of 75 but Heathcote, who reached the last 32 of the competition in Crawley last season, levelled in a scrappy second.
And the Leicester player soon started to hit his straps, as visits of 68 and 53 left Trump slumped in the chair and prompted fears of a first round upset.
The 17-time ranking event winner hit back with a gutsy fifth-frame 86, however, before restoring parity at three apiece and holding his nerve in the decider to edge over the line.
Trump was snooker’s main man last season after his thrilling series of titles cemented his position at the summit of the world rankings.
That glittering record has led to sky-high expectations but last year’s king of the Crucible insists he can deal with the pressure.
“I don’t put much pressure on myself - I know how hard it is to keep up the run I’m on and even if I am losing in the quarter-finals or the semi-final it seems to be a bad thing, whereas I don’t really see it like that,” he added.
“I know how hard it is - a lot of the players struggle to get to the quarters or semis once or twice in a season. I’m doing it near on every event and when you’re playing in 20 events in a year you’re going to have a bad game.
“It’s important that you get through those bad games and give yourself another chance.”