For a young man hailed as the future of his sport, speaking on the eve of the biggest tournament in its calendar, Judd Trump is remarkably relaxed.
The Bristolian is a laid-back character by nature anyway but, he admits, he’s in a good place ahead of his World Championship opener at the Crucible this afternoon, against dangerous qualifier Liang Wenbo.
“I didn’t have a great season until January, because I was putting too much pressure on myself,” said Trump, who has since reached the Masters semi-finals, won the Championship League and clinched the China Open title earlier this month.
“As soon as I enjoy myself, I play with freedom. I proved that in China, and I need to get back to that state of mind. That’s what happened when I got to the final. I could blast through the tournament, and when you do show you are enjoying yourself, it scares other players.
“If I can get that right, I will have a good chance. There’s a lot of nervous energy wasted and it does tire you out. The best way is ease your way through the tournament, not too much stress, and save it all for the semi-final and final.”
The 26-year-old benefited from a fearless approach in 2011, when he knocked out reigning champion Neil Robertson, Martin Gould, Graeme Dott and Ding Junhui on the way to his first - and only, to date - Crucible final. A fairy-tale finish proved beyond Trump - he lost 18-15 to John Higgins in the final - but the seeds of stardom had been sown. He bought an Audi R8 supercar with his earnings that year - later traded in for a more low-key Ferrari - and coined the phrase “naughty snooker” for his fearless, on-table approach that wowed crowds - and had World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn thanking his lucky stars.
Trump, though, has matured now, crediting a move to the Grove Snooker Academy in Romford, Essex, as helping him grow up. The penchant for fast cars and designer clothing remains - we meet with Trump sporting a Christian Dior shirt that is just Christian Dior enough to be noticed - but his famous ‘boyband’ hairstyle is a little more refined, his responses measured and thoughtful. “The last couple of years I have not done so well coming into the World Championship, but this year is different,” the former world No.1 added.
“I am a confidence player, so this could be the little kick I needed. I have got a funny feeling that something good is going to happen.”
* Michael Holt beat former champion Neil Robertson 10-6.