The Masters: Trump must start racking up major wins to secure snooker domination

He’s the world number one and the finest player on the planet, but Judd Trump goes to the Masters this year still with something of a point to prove in snooker’s most prestigious events.

The 31-year-old has had a spectacular couple of years on the baize, winning the Masters for the first time in January 2019, before claiming his first World Championship title four months later.

Even in the trying and unusual times we lived in during 2020, the Bristolian won six ranking titles over the calendar year, cementing his position as world number one, a long way clear of his rivals.

However, while he may have added the English Open to his collection, retained the Northern Ireland Open and regained the World Grand Prix crown, Trump is without any of snooker’s three biggest titles.

There is some debate over the stature of the UK Championship these days, but it remains part of the Triple Crown alongside the World Championship and Masters, none of which Trump holds currently.

The Juddernaut has not won any of the three majors since his 2019 Crucible triumph, most recently losing out in the final of the UK Championship in an epic struggle with Neil Robertson in December.

Stuart Bingham heads to Milton Keynes this weekend as the defending Masters champion, while Ronnie O’Sullivan won his sixth World Championship title in Sheffield in August.

Trump’s Triple Crown tally stands at three, having won each of the events once over nearly a decade. His UK Championship triumph came back in 2011.

The current world champion thinks Judd should be aiming for many more than three major titles on his CV and has set the world number one a challenge..

‘The only thing in snooker that’s constant are the three majors,’ the Rocket told Eurosport. ‘You’d probably want to be looking at getting to maybe [Steve] Davis’ level, or [Stephen] Hendry’s – 15, 16, 17, 18 majors.

‘Obviously, the icing on the cake would be to beat my record of 20, which he’s capable of.’

The fact Trump is a long way off that tally now is no criticism, he is achieving incredible things in snooker and producing performances as good as any we have ever seen.

His displays have created plenty of talk of Trump dominating snooker and making this part of the sport’s history his own.

Hendry said as Trump thrashed John Higgins in the World Championship final: ‘It’s just such a dominant performance from Judd and we could be starting to see a new era of dominance by a new player,’

However, he can’t really claim to be dominating anything without stamping his authority on the biggest events in the sport on a regular basis.

Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams could be clear at the top of the tennis world rankings, but it would be very tough to argue they were dominating their sport if they didn’t hold any of the Grand Slams. The same point can be made in golf with the four majors.

Snooker is different because there is not a set of major titles with the same weighting and prestige. The World Championship stands above all else, followed by the Masters and then the UK Championship taking third spot.

But while the Triple Crown is recognised and promoted as such, they will be considered the majors, and as O’Sullivan says, that is how players will be judged.

With ranking events more numerous than ever, the sheer number of total titles does not mean quite what it did in the past, and while Trump’s achievement of20 ranking titles is stunning, it is his Triple Crown titles he will be truly judged on at the end of his career.

‘With the amount of tournaments that are around today, I think [Judd’s] got to be looking at 60 to 70 ranking event titles,’ said O’Sullivan.

‘When [Stephen] Hendry was doing it and I was doing it, we might have played 10 ranking events, but I think Judd is playing 20 ranking events [a season].

‘If Hendry did 36 ranking events and I did 37, you’d probably have to say he’s got to be looking to at least make 60 or 65. If he was to get to 70 or 75 then pro rata, you’d have to say that’s the greatest record of all-time.’

Time is on Trump’s side, he is only 31-years-old, and as O’Sullivan proved at the age of 44 this summer, it is possible to perform at the top level as you edge towards the half century.

Of the 16 men in the Masters this year, only three are younger than Trump – Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao and Jack Lisowski – so he will have plenty more opportunities to lift big trophies, and the task may get a touch easier as his older rivals inevitably decline.

Trump may spend the next 10-15 years picking up the odd Triple Crown title every season or two and finish with a fabulous collection when he hangs up his cue, but for this to truly go down as the Trump era, they must start coming more regularly.

True domination is extremely hard. O’Sullivan has never managed it, neither have the likes of John Higgins or Mark Williams. The last man to be dominant was Hendry, before that Davis, and even then they did not win everything, there are just too many good players in the game.

Trump is capable of dominating the sport as much as any one player can, and it feels like he is on the verge of doing so, but Triple Crowns are the only way he can take the next step, not only to domination but to crossover recognition.

There is no argument against Trump being the best snooker player of 2020, but it was world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan who was nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, not Judd.

The 2021 Masters could be Judd’s next step to truly ruling the roost.

The Masters gets underway on Sunday afternoon with Trump beginning his campaign against Dave Gilbert in the first round.

Watch the  Masters live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from Jan 10

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