Judd Trump vowed to take his game to even greater heights and make more history after becoming the first player to win the same ranking event for three years running since Stephen Hendry in 1996, writes Will Jennings.
The two-time defending Northern Ireland Open champion downed six-time king of the Crucible Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in the final to emulate Hendry’s historic feat at the UK Championship in 1996.
The world No.1 had beaten O'Sullivan by the same scoreline in the previous two finals – in Belfast – but translated his form across the Irish Sea as a searing performance blew the Rocket away in Milton Keynes.
Trump is well on course to equal last season’s record-breaking six ranking event titles and reckons the best is yet to come after a scorching start to the campaign.
“It’s amazing – to win any tournament is tough nowadays and this is my second one of the season so far,” said the 31-year-old, who also won last month’s English Open at the Marshall Arena.
— Judd trump (@judd147t) November 22, 2020
“For me it’s just about winning and enjoying it as much as possible. I’m enjoying playing snooker, the challenge and playing the likes of Ronnie, trying to get better, keep improving and keep taking my game to new levels.
“It’s incredible because I think last season I had the chance to win the big three BBC events [World Championship, UK Championship and Masters] and be the first person since Hendry in that one as well.
“I’m giving myself shots at these records that haven’t been done for 20, 25 years so it just shows how hard they are.”
On his two ranking event titles to kick off this season, Trump added: “I could have been on three! Kyren [Wilson] played incredibly in the other one [Championship League] so it’s beyond my wildest dreams to win two already.
“I think I’ve reached the quarter-finals of the last seven, eight nine events so it just shows the consistency. I’ve reached the semi-final of every event or better this season. Sooner or later there’s going to become a time where you take a tough loss like I did last year in the UK Championship but you’ve just got to not beat yourself up about it.
“It happens to everyone and you can’t keep winning all the time but I’ll be giving it my all. I’ll be going away practicing every single day now up until the UK to try and get ready for that one.”
Trump raced into a 5-3 lead at the interval but a roaring comeback from the Rocket teed up a nervy finale with the score at 8-7.
The now 19-time ranking event winner struck visits of 128, 69 and 55 before the break but a characteristically defiant O’Sullivan, fuelled by four half-century breaks, hauled himself back into contention.
But the gutsy Trump, who has now won 11 of his last 12 ranking event finals, showed nerves of steel to make a rock-solid 89 in the 16th frame and edge him over the line.
Trump has now beaten 37-time major winner O’Sullivan in eight of the 11 finals they’ve met in and boasts a 14-13 lead over the Rocket in overall matches.
The planet’s greatest potter revelled in his record and believes those glittering head-to-head statistics truly make him one of a kind.
2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣8️⃣ - 🏆
2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ - 🏆
2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣0️⃣ - 🏆
Same finalists, same scoreline: Judd Trump beats Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-7 in the Northern Ireland Open final for the third consecutive year 🙌#NIOpen #HomeNations pic.twitter.com/GAsZAjrsgR
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) November 22, 2020
Trump, who kicks off his bid for a second UK Championship title against Paul Davison on Thursday, added: “My record against Ronnie – I can’t imagine anyone else in the history of the game even getting close to the record I’ve got against him in finals.
“To have a winning record is absolutely incredible – he’s probably the best player that’s ever lived and I’ve got a record like that against him.
“I still put him up there as the one to beat. It just shows my level of consistency and how far I am in front in the rankings to keep doing it over and over again.
“It’s nice that we’ve got that match up that he is the world champion and I’m the world No.1. It’s nice for everyone in the sport to be able to bring it up as a massive event, and every time we play each other it is a massive event.”