When world number one Judd Trump declared “I want to destroy my opponent, I want to ruin them for the rest of the season”, you know you’re in for either a masterclass of a tournament or a misguided attempt at trash talk. Guess which one occurred in the first round of the UK Championship in York?
In an era where snooker legends are getting hard to come by and there isn’t much reason to get excited about the sport in the first place, Trump has been labelled as the messiah, a youngster who can take the game by the scruff of the neck and get people interested again. At only 23 years old, he’s an un-molded talent that needs time to reach the dizzy heights that snooker can offer. He has the raw skill, even if his detractors note that he’s a lucky player, one prone to score flukes that would rile the purist. Still, not even his fiercest critics would have expected such a capitulation that occurred at the hands of Mark Joyce today.
Joyce was five frames to two down this afternoon and it looked like Trump would be odds-on to set up a second round encounter with Ali Carter. As it was, Trump threw away the momentum that a 102 break had given him and went to sleep, allowing Joyce to win a scrappy final frame.
The Englishman, ranked 49 places below Trump, won’t be expected to put up much more of a challenge, but he certainly took advantage of his opponent, whose mind certainly wasn’t on the game. I was astounded to read that Trump, sat in his chair whilst Joyce got on with the game, was busy watching what was going on across on the other table in the Barbican! True, there’s not much you can do until you get up onto the table, but you need to focus at all times and be ready to pounce on your turn. Perhaps it’s to be expected from someone who doesn’t enjoy watching his own sport on telly. People wonder if he can be the one to replace the genius of Ronnie O’Sullivan. With his current attitude, it looks like he already has.
The 6-5 showdown between the two was the closest first round match so far in the 2012 edition of the UK Championship. It certainly hasn’t been a good campaign for the foreign entrants so far, with Ding Junhui, Cao Yupeng, Liang Wenbo and Fergal O’Brien all falling short in the first stage. Only Marco Fu bested home talent in the form of Mark Allen and is guaranteed a Welsh showdown in the last 16 once Matthew Stevens and Dominic Dale square up tomorrow.
Stuart Bingham continued his brilliant year-ending form following his Premier League win with a convincing 6-2 win over qualifier Jack Lisowski. He would have been looking forward to a quarter-final clash with the world number one, but has to be content with a next round challenge against Stephen Maguire. Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Mark Davis, Barry Hawkins, Ryan Day and Mark Selby were the other men to progress after the second day.