Snooker is a very difficult sport, to say the least. There are 128 players on tour each season competing in a variety of ranking events. In most snooker tournaments, if a player loses a match, it is the end of the tournament for him. This is what makes winning on a regular basis so difficult for lower ranked players because their draw is normally very tough. Guaranteeing a decent position in the rankings is another story; consistency is the key here. Some good runs on a set of tournaments are enough to keep someone from dropping positions in the rankings.
At the end of each season, the top 64 players secure their place on the tour for the season to come. Ordinarily, at the top of the rankings, things don't change so often; a few established professionals have been there for several years, if not decades. And most titles in a single season are shared among the top 16 players. It's quite common to witness a single player winning 3, 4 or even the former record of 5 ranking titles in one season. The calendar is very busy so there are many opportunities for collecting trophies. As every snooker fan knows, one player has recently surpassed that record: Judd Trump won 6 ranking titles last season (and has already won 2 ranking titles this season). He is the world number one since he won the International Championship back in August 2019. Since then, his number one spot has never been threatened.
Trump's winning streak began when he won the ninth ranking title of his career by defeating O'Sullivan in the final of the Northern Ireland Open in 2018. That episode put an end to a one-year drought without winning a ranking event. To get to the final, Trump had to beat the likes of Jack Lisowski, Luca Brecel, and Ryan Day. His 9-7 victory in the final seemed to awake some dormant talent which would be noticed and revered during the tournaments that followed.
The year was 2019. The tournament? The Masters. Trump had never won that before, but his luck was about to change. The defending champion, Mark Allen, was beaten in the first round by Luca Brecel while Trump defeated Kyren Wilson 6-2. He went on to beat Mark Selby in the quarter-finals and Niel Robertson was the next victim in the semi-finals. The best was yet to come, though. The other player who made it to the final was none other than Ronnie O'Sullivan. Trump had the match won at the end the first session, which ended 7-1. In the evening session, Trump kept cool and denied The Rocket any chance of a comeback. At the end of the day, he had simply demolished his opponent with a 10-4 win.
The next ranking title came in February 2019. Trump won the Coral World Grand Prix beating Ali Carter in the final 10-6. That was his second ranking title in four months and third title overall. That was already a successful season, but the best was yet to come: he won his maiden world title a few months later. Trump had a close call in the first round against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh as the match went all the way to a decider. He then got Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire and Gary Wilson out of his way to reach the final with John Higgins. In terms of standard, it was the best final ever played at the Crucible featuring a record number of 11 century breaks. A comfortable 18-9 victory saw Trump complete his Triple Crown quest.
Trump did not let his guard down in the 2019/2020 season. He promptly trashed Shaun Murphy 10-3 in the final of the International Championship, which took place in China. He took the world number one spot in the rankings with that feat (in case you have lost count, that was his 12th ranking title and the first ranking title of the season). The next ranking title also came in China later in the year (2019) when he beat Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-5 in the final. Let me just point out that, sometime later, Trump contested the final of the Champion of Champions against Niel Robertson in one of the most memorable matches of all times. The Aussie beat his opponent 10-9 scoring five centuries in the process.
The season's Northern Ireland Open was a déjà vu. Once again, he beat O'Sullivan 9-7 in the final. That meant a third ranking event triumph for the world number one. The year is now 2020. Trump had his revenge against Niel Robertson in Tempodrom, in Berlin, where he became the champion of the German Masters with a 9-6 win in the final. Another ranking title for his collection in early 2020 - the fourth of his prolific season.
Trump's fifth ranking title of the season came at the expense of China's Yan Bingtao. Trump beat the Chinese 10-4 to become the champion of the 2020 Coral Players Championship. The defending champion, Ronnie O'Sullivan, was not competing because he failed to qualify for the event. In March 2020, the virus had already spread worldwide, and the pandemic was beginning to affect the snooker tour. The situation did not prevent Trump from winning yet another ranking event: the Gibraltar Open. Trump beat Kyren Wilson 4-3 in the final, making three centuries during the match (Trump made 102 centuries during the 2019/2020 season, an outstanding achievement).
In the 2020 Betfred World Championship, Trump could not manage to lift the Crucible curse (a first-time winner has never succeeded in defending the title); he lost to Kyren Wilson 13-9 in the quarter-finals. At that point he was no longer the world champion but was (and still is) the undisputed world number one, way ahead of the world number two. Trump has further extended his advantage on top of the rankings this season (2020/2021). He is the first in the one-year list. His consistency is remarkable: he has reached the semi-finals in every tournament this season.
Trump just keeps adding to his CV. He is the current English Open champion and the current Northern Ireland Open champion. In addition, he was the runner-up in the Championship League, and made it to the last four in both the Champion of Champions and the European Masters. He has now won 19 ranking titles in his career. Remember that it all started when he beat O'Sullivan 9-7 back in 2018. About a week ago, Trump retained the Northern Ireland Open trophy for a second time keeping O'Sullivan at bay for a third time in a row.
As I write this post, the Betway UK Championship has already begun, and Trump has easily defeated Paul S. Davison in round 1. How far will the world number one get in this Triple Crown event? The only time he won the UK Championship was back in 2011. Even if he does not win this one, I believe he will sustain his form for years to come and continue to be a dominant presence in the sport. I hope he becomes an inspiration not only for the viewers, but for other players as well. He has continuously reminded us that hard work pays off, and that is not the only thing that makes him excel at snooker; he is a true master when dealing with the emotional side of the game and has abundant confidence in his own remarkable talent. A perfect recipe for success.