World Snooker Championship: Defending champion Judd Trump survives first-round scare


Defending world champion Judd Trump survived a first-round scare to edge past Tom Ford on day one of the rearranged 2020 World Championship.

Qualifier Ford raced into a 3-0 lead and was 5-4 ahead going into the evening session at the Crucible.

However, Trump raised his game and claimed six of the next nine frames to seal a 10-8 win in Sheffield.

Trump will now face China’s Yan Bingtao or fellow Englishman Elliot Slessor in the second round.

“I always seem to try and find a way to get through and that’s the most important thing,” Trump said.

“I had to dig deep at times. I didn’t want to go out on the first day after winning it last year.”

In Friday’s other first-round matches, 2015 champion Stuart Bingham edged to a 5-4 lead over Ashley Carty in their best-of-19 encounter.

China’s Ding Junhui took a 5-4 lead over England’s Mark King, while Scotland’s Alan McManus came from behind to lead Welsh three-time champion Mark Williams 5-4 on his first appearance at the Crucible since 2016.

McManus, 49, is also the oldest player to feature in the main draw since Steve Davis reached the quarter-finals on his final appearance at the age of 52 in 2010.

‘The ultimate golden ticket’

The day had started in celebratory mood as snooker became the first indoor sporting event with a crowd in attendance since the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Crucible was less than a third full for social distancing reasons, the huge roar of approval that greeted the arrival of the players provided an audible reminder of how much live sport has been missed.

Fans smiled as announcer Rob Walker delivered a typically animated and stirring ‘we are back’ introduction.

And there was a triumphant fist pump from World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn as play began at a tournament that was originally scheduled to take place between 18 April and 4 May.

But that optimism proved short-lived, as changes to UK Government guidelines were announced before the first session had even concluded.

And there will now be no spectators permitted at the Crucible Theatre from Saturday, although Hearn said “there is a chance” they may be allowed to return for the final on 15-16 August.

“Congratulations to those guys who went today. They will be able talk about it for the rest of their lives – the ultimate golden ticket,” Hearn told BBC Sport.

“I am disappointed that the players are not going to get the atmosphere but they are in the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, so they have to take positives.

“This is not the worst. The worst is the tournament doesn’t happen.”

‘You have to readjust the way you play’

Neil Robertson, world champion in 2010, said news that fans would be banned from attending after Friday was “disappointing”.

The Australian, who is set to face China’s Liang Wenbo in the first round on Sunday, told BBC Sport that he may now have to modify his game as a result.

“The crowd can have such an influence over big turning points in matches,” he said.

“You kind of have to readjust the way you play. I like to be very aggressive and put my opponent under pressure and the crowd can get on top of them, so that will be harder to do.

“You feel as though you are practising [playing without fans] so you are not really going to have the same drama as you would [with them].”

The Crucible welcomed 205 fans at the morning session, while 512 watched all three sessions on Friday.

Six-time world champion Steve Davis suggested that the change may benefit players outside the top 16.

“The top players would prefer a crowd,” Davis said.

“It may help the lower ranked players who have not proved themselves on the massive big stages.”

And Trump added: “It felt nice having people in the venue. Everyone was very spaced out and safe in there.

“It’s a little bit disappointing to now have that taken away but it was nice to be able to get out there and play with my friends and family in the crowd and enjoy that experience with them.”

Trump’s tough start

At times during Trump’s opening match it looked as though he might succumb to the so-called ‘Crucible curse’.

No first-time snooker world champion has retained the title since the tournament moved to its current venue in 1977.

Ford, 36, started in impressive fashion and was on course for a maximum 147 break in the first frame before missing a black on 97.

The world number 26 raced into a 3-0 lead before Trump got going with a break of 104 in the fourth frame.

While Ford also knocked in a 140 break to go 4-2 up, he struggled to maintain his form as the match progressed.

Trump’s break of 131 to move 8-7 ahead saw him become only the second player since Neil Robertson in 2014 to make 100 centuries in a single campaign.

He now needs four more to eclipse Robertson’s record of 103 in a season.

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