UK Championship: Judd Trump's transformation down to drive and desire - Stephen Hendry

Judd Trump
World number one Judd Trump now has 14 ranking titles to his name
Betway UK Championship
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 26 November-8 December
Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 30 November

Judd Trump's hunger and focus is finally enabling him to deliver the results his talent merits, according to seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry.

Trump won the world title for the first time in April and has dominated the sport in the past year, winning three ranking events and a second Masters crown.

The 30-year-old world number one's quest for a second UK Championship title, eight years after his first, begins on Thursday against world number 127 Amine Amiri.

And Hendry told BBC Sport: "Judd has made snooker his life. That was not always the case. It's now his number one priority.

"On his day he could always be amazing, but he is far more consistent now.

"Judd had to start thinking if he would end up like Jimmy White, not winning a world title and as many ranking events as he probably should have given his ability. He probably got tired of watching Ronnie and Mark Selby, and others winning everything.

"He was ready to sacrifice and not view snooker as a part-time thing and it's working."

Matching the maestro

Steve Davis
Steve Davis raised the bar for snooker in the 1980s

Trump's latest ranking win came when he retained the Northern Ireland Open title in Belfast earlier this month.

Perhaps fittingly, it was a second successive 9-7 win over Ronnie O'Sullivan, like Hendry a legend of the game with 36 ranking victories to his name.

Thirty years on from Hendry's win over the all-conquering Steve Davis in the 1989 UK final, the Scot believes that Trump's recent upturn in fortunes could signal a changing of the guard in snooker.

Davis had tasted Crucible success on six occasions in the 1980s, and also won four UK titles.

But five months after the first of his five UK successes, Hendry went on to win a maiden world title and then completely monopolise the sport in the 1990s.

The 50-year-old told BBC Sport: "Steve was still the main man, the benchmark, and to beat him over a similar distance to the World Championship was a massive confidence booster.

"When I was 13, Jimmy White was my snooker hero because of the way he played, but Steve was the one to model my career on because of what he won and the way he went about it. I knew I could learn from him."

Trump's new-found focus means he has "a great chance" of ending his career being mentioned among the game's elite, according to Hendry.

He added: "With the age Judd is, and the fact Ronnie, Mark Williams and John Higgins are now into their 40s, there is every reason to believe that in the next five or six years he can have around 30 ranking events to his name.

"There's Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Selby and lots of great players out there, but he is just that little bit above everyone else at the moment."

Age is just a number

Hendry's fellow Scot Alan McManus, a former Masters champion and three-time World Championship semi-finalist, believes O'Sullivan, 43, remains Trump's biggest threat in York.

Along with fellow legends Higgins and Mark Williams, who are both 44, O'Sullivan is still in the top five in the world rankings - and only Trump's remarkable form has denied 'the Rocket' the number one spot.

The trio are quick to point out they are past their very best but, while they may not be at the peak of their powers, results suggest they are not that far off.

With 88 ranking titles between them, O'Sullivan, Higgins and Williams are still maintaining the sort of standards many can only dream of emulating.

McManus, who is poised for his 23rd appearance at the UK Championship, said: "People forget how much desire Ronnie still has.

"He tries his heart out and when you consider how much success he has had and how much he has won, that's incredible. He's still hungry and no one talks about the hunger but he is still switched on. There is the odd game where he looks like he's not too bothered but he still wants it badly.

"John needs his rhythm and he has got that because he has won shed loads of matches this season already. Consistency is key with him and and he is practising hard.

"He has the right regime and the right environment. When he's in the groove then he's incapable of playing badly. He's savvy, he understands he is not always going to be top dog, so he knows it can happen that he reaches a final and will lose. But he is still a top player.

"Mark Williams has had some time off so it will be interesting to see how that pans out. Has he lost the enthusiasm? Maybe, but he is still very difficult to beat. You can't work out his frame of mind. He is so so laid back and he can play his way into a tournament in a couple of matches. But if his heart is not in it, then it's tough."

Mark Williams (left), John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan
Through the ages with three legends, Mark Williams, John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan

O'Sullivan has only entered three ranking events this season, reaching the fourth round of the English Open and finishing runner-up to Trump in the Northern Ireland Open.

Higgins has already reached two ranking semi-finals so far, as well as the Six-Reds final and the last eight of the Champion of Champions.

Welshman Williams narrowly missed out on the 23rd ranking title of career, losing a final-frame decider against Shaun Murphy in the China Championship.

But McManus said that now it's Trump who "thinks he is the man".

"And that is the most important thing," McManus added. "He has genuine belief with his results. His game is on a new level. It takes times to feel settled and he looks settled out there now. Two years ago he lost tamely to Graeme Dott 6-2, having led 2-0.

"But now he will take some stopping. He is just playing the table and having fun. That's a dangerous combination."

Hendry concurs.

"One of the big things with Judd now is that he gets into a tournament and is timing it right so that by the time he is playing in the semi-finals and final he is peaking," Hendry explained. "His stats in the latter stages are incredible and he is playing his best against the best opposition.

"Having targets in an individual sport is a big thing and it really was for me. It's the same with lots of other individual sports, where someone sets standards that others have to follow, like Tiger Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus in golf.

"When I won my seventh world title, I just kind of thought, 'what now?' There was no target to go at. I found it much more difficult so I had to invent new goals rather than chase someone."

The UK Championship and how money talks

Stephen Hendry
Stephen Hendry, here celebrating his fourth Crucible success, surpassed Davis by winning seven World Championship titles
  • The guaranteed overall prize money for the World Snooker Tour in 2019-20 has increased to £14,431,000, and the UK Championship is hitting seven figures for the first time with £1,009,000 up for grabs and the champion pocketing £200,000.
  • The UK Championship is one of 19 ranking events with six further invitation events. The tournament was first staged in 1977.
  • Just 14 of the 42 finals have not featured at least one of Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan or John Higgins.
  • Prize money for the World Championship has risen to its highest ever total of £2,395,000, with £500,000 for the winner.
  • The third 'Triple Crown' event, the Masters, has a total prize fund of £725,00, with the winner receiving a quarter of a million pounds.
  • If Trump wins a second UK title, he will hold all three Triple Crown events at the same time.
  • The last player to hold all of snooker's 'Big Three' at the same time was Mark Williams when he won the lot in the 2002-03 season.
  • The last player to win all three in a calendar year was Hendry in 1996.

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