Judd Trump claimed that emulating Alex Higgins has helped him to woo the Belfast crowds, after securing a 4-1 defeat of Rod Lawler in the opening round of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.
Trump is the most successful player in the event’s short history. The Ace in the Pack lifted the trophy, which is named after Higgins, on three consecutive occasions between 2018 and 2020. Remarkably, all three of those finals saw Trump beat Ronnie O’Sullivan by a 9-7 scoreline.
The opening frame wasn’t played on Trump’s terms this afternoon, with Lawler taking it after 35-minutes to lead 1-0. From that point, 2019 World Champion Trump sprang into gear. A break of 114 gave him the second and he stole the third on the black to lead 2-1.
Trump then doubled his advantage, before a break of 88 saw him take his fourth on the bounce to run out a 4-1 victor. Next up Trump will take on Ireland’s Aaron Hill in the last 64.
“I’ve won this event a few times now. It is up there with my favourites. The greats of the game have won events five, six or seven times. I want to try to to that at this tournament,” said 23-time ranking event winner Trump.
“Every time I’ve come here I’ve always had amazing support. I don’t know what it is, it might be something to do with the fact my style of play is like Alex Higgins. They get behind that and can see that I am trying my best, playing all these different shots for the fans out there.”
Shaun Murphy kept his hopes of qualifying for the Champion of Champions alive with a 4-0 whitewash win against China’s Xu Si.
This week is Murphy’s last opportunity to qualify for the prestigious invitation event. The 2005 Crucible king fired in contributions of 51, 79 and 62 on his way to the win. He plays Jamie Clarke next.
“I’ve come here with the clear goal of trying to win to get in the Champion of Champions. That is one down and six to go,” said 40-year-old Murphy.
“I’ve had the same opportunities as everyone else. This is the last chance saloon. I’ve not taken the chances and I am going to give it everything to get in.”
Neil Robertson needed just over an hour to brush aside Fraser Patrick 4-0. The Australian made breaks of 85, 120 and 55 on his way to victory. Robertson is now up against former European Masters winner Fan Zhengyi in the last 64.
Mark Selby was made to work for a 4-2 win over 12-time women’s World Champion Reanne Evans. He is also still to secure his place at the Champion of Champions. The four-time Crucible winner progresses to face Sam Craigie here in Belfast.
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