World number one Judd Trump beat World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 to win the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open for a third successive year.
Victory for Trump sees him become the first player to win a specific ranking title three years in a row, since Stephen Hendry completed the feat at the 1996 UK Championship. It’s the 19th ranking title of 31-year-old Trump’s career and he has now won 11 of his last 12 ranking finals. O’Sullivan remains on a record breaking 37 career ranking titles.
Trump’s achievement is all the more remarkable, given the last three finals in this event have all seen him beat O’Sullivan by a 9-7 scoreline. It’s the first time the same two players have contested a specific ranking final in three consecutive years, since Hendry and Jimmy White at the 1994 World Championship.
Trump now edges ahead of O’Sullivan in their head-to-head standings, leading 12-11. He’s also been the stronger of the two players in finals against each other, leading 7-3 in title matches.
The Ace in the Pack leaves with the £70,000 top prize, as well as £5,000 for the high break after he made his fifth career 147 earlier in the week against Gao Yang. It is two Home Nations titles out of two this season for Trump, who beat Neil Robertson 9-8 in the English Open final last month.
A tightly contested afternoon session saw Trump emerge with a 5-3 advantage heading into this evening’s concluding frames.
Trump made an authoritative start tonight, composing breaks of 89 and 55 to move just two from victory at 7-3. However, O’Sullivan refused to give in and hit back to claim the 11th, before a run of 63 helped him to make it 7-5 at the mid-session interval.
When they returned the match burst into life, as Trump fired in a sublime 115 to move one from victory at 8-5. O’Sullivan immediately responded with a break of 93 to reduce his arrears and a further contribution of 74 saw him pull within a frame at 8-7.
O’Sullivan had the first opportunity to force a decider in the 16th frame, but broke down on a run of 32. Trump ruthlessly stepped in and made a nerveless break of 89 to secure the title.
“I’m delighted. It was a tough game. I felt confident at 8-5. I felt like I was going to get chances and that didn’t happen. I played a couple of bad safeties, he forced me into a couple of errors and before I knew it the score was 8-7 and looking like 8-8.” said Bristol’s Trump. “I was wondering if I was even going to get a chance to win the match. I made a brilliant clearance, it was up there with one of the best clearances I’ve made.
“I can’t remember anyone else in the history of the game even getting close to my record in finals against Ronnie. To have a winning record of 7-3 now is absolutely incredible. He is probably the best player that’s ever lived and I’ve got a record like that against him.
“The World Championship is the biggest tournament in our sport and an amazing achievement, but it is one tournament over a whole season. I won six events last year, none of them the World Championship, every tournament for me is the same. Although the World Championship is a little bit more difficult. I still put myself up there as the one to beat. It just shows in my level of consistency and how far in front I am in the rankings, to keep doing it again and again. It is nice to have that matchup, that he is the World Champion and I’m the world number one.”
O’Sullivan said: “I’m not disappointed. I’ve had a great week and a fantastic time. I played some good snooker and enjoyed it. I’d have taken quarter-finals all day long. This is a bonus.
“I just play for a hobby now. I don’t have to play for a living. If I had to play this game for a living, I would be miserable as hell. I just play for fun and do my business off the table. I obviously would like to win. It is a tough school.
“I think I can play until I’m 60 now, with the way things are going. If I am fit and healthy, then I might not be on the tour, but I would be doing the exhibitions. I’m going to be like Jimmy White. I love playing, I just didn’t enjoy playing on the circuit as it was like hard graft. Now that is taken care of and it has become a hobby. It is like I am ten years old again. I wish I could have felt like this when I was in my prime.”