Phil Haigh ✍️
Judd Trump is a fan of the changes to the UK Championship this season, saying it has given the Barbican a special feeling, while it has also helped players towards the bottom of the world rankings.
The 33-year-old came through a dramatic opener at the Barbican in York, beating Xiao Guodong 6-5 on Tuesday to keep his hopes alive of a second UK Championship title, and set up a last 16 meeting with Shaun Murphy.
The two-table set-up in York this year has been brought in along with a tiered qualifying system, which sees the world’s top 16 head straight to the Barbican.
Unsurprisingly most of the elite 16 are happy to see the new system, but Trump feels it has helped the event as a whole, after playing in front of a packed crowd in the afternoon session on Tuesday.
‘It feels a lot more like the Crucible, walking down from the top you can feel the crowd on top of you and it was an amazing crowd,’ said Trump after beating Xiao.
‘I was a bit surprised, it seemed to be rammed out there. When you’re playing first round on a Tuesday afternoon, you never know what to expect.
‘It was special, a lot of support out there, I was just glad I managed to bore everyone and get through in the end.’
The previous system saw the lowest-ranked players taking on those at the very top of the rankings, which did produce some notable upsets, but clearly was an enormous challenge for those ranked outside the top 100.
The new arrangement sees the lowest-ranked players face each other in Sheffield, with winners gradually taking on tougher opposition before reaching the Barbican.
While he doesn’t have to face the qualifying stage himself, Trump believes it is beneficial for the lowest-ranked players to face each other, earn some prize money and build confidence, just as Jimmy White has done this week, amazingly winning four qualifying games at 60 years old.
‘I certainly feel that having the qualifying will benefit them, having the chance to play people in their own range,’ he said. ‘Look at Jimmy White, he hasn’t done this in 10-15 years and the first time this comes in he manages to get through, it’s a way to build your confidence up.
‘Even if they’re winning £2,000-£3,000, they need that money. They don’t need to be under pressure to play a top player to win that. It can be someone of their own standard and build themselves up. This is the way to go.’
Having watched White come through qualifying after turning 60 earlier this year, can Trump see himself on the baize in his seventh decade?
‘If I’m alive,’ he joked. ‘I’d hope so. I think so, there’s no reason why not.
‘I can’t see Ronnie [O’Sullivan], Mark [Williams] or anyone retiring until they can’t stand up anymore.’
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