Judd Trump battled through to the World Snooker Championship quarter-finals but had a message for early headline-maker Ronnie O’Sullivan - don’t peak too early, writes Will Jennings.
The defending world champion edged past world No.16 Yan Bingtao on Friday in a scrappy affair at the Crucible, as the world No.1’s characteristic dominance and flamboyance was replaced with steeliness and resilience in the last 16.
O’Sullivan’s performances in Sheffield have been the polar opposite to Trump’s most recent display, requiring just 108 minutes to dispatch Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and obliterate the record for the Crucible’s fastest ever match by a whopping 48 minutes.
Trump, who’s scooped six ranking event titles this season, says he couldn’t care less about the Rocket’s exploits and is more than happy to let him have the limelight before the business end of the tournament.
“You don’t want to be making headlines in the first or second round,” the 30-year-old said.
“You want to be making headlines come the weekend, come the final - that’s when you want to be peaking and playing your best stuff.
“Most people’s memories from last year is how well I played in the final - they don’t really remember me for my last 16 bad session or a bad session against Thepchaiya [Un-Nooh].
“No one remembers that - it’s all about what happens in the final day and the final frame.
“It’s good to play well at the start but the odds of keeping it up for the whole tournament are very slim.
“It’s very difficult for everyone to be able to play well every single session but if I can flick it on from the quarter-finals like last year, then I’ll be more than happy.”
Trump had to channel all his gladiatorial spirit to down the precocious 20-year-old Chinese, who struck a brilliant break of 130 in the 23rd frame to reduce the deficit to 12-11 in a late Friday night finish.
But Trump’s riposte was punchy as he made a gutsy 127 clearance to topple the 2019 Riga Masters champion and keep his hopes of defending his title alive.
If the world No.1 achieved that feat he’d be the first first-time Crucible winner to defend his crown, as he prepares to meet either Kyren Wilson or Martin Gould in the last eight.
He almost didn’t get there owing to Bingtao’s brilliance, however, and Trump - who says he’ll play until he’s 50 - reckons the thrilling young talent is leading the way among the younger generation.
“He’s quite a bit ahead of anyone else around that age - his all-round game is there, he competes and he gives his best whenever he comes to the table,” he added.
“He’s going to be improving over the next ten to 20 years- he’s going to be there or thereabouts and he’s done well to get in the top 16 at his age.
“I don’t see that many people coming through and that’s why you see Mark Williams, John Higgins and Ronnie [O'Sullivan] battling away at the top of the game and they probably will for the next five years.
“The age bracket is a lot older now and for the likes of myself, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson I think we’ll play until we’re 50 years old at least.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July -16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.