2011 will remain in the memories as the year Judd Trump came to age and showed his full potential as a player.
Judd had been an exceptional junior: he had won the English Under-13 and Under-15 championship, and, at 14 had reached the World Under-21 Championship semi-finals. He also made a competitive 147 at just 14, becoming the youngest player to do that.
He had turned professional in 2005/06 and had some very good results in his first year as a pro. The next season, he qualified for the final stages of the world championship at the Crucible.
But, after that he didn’t really build on the form of his debut. At the start of 2011, aged 21, he was ranked n°26.
The breakthrough came at the China Open 2011: coming to the main stages as a qualifier he beat Marco Fu, Mark Davis, Peter Ebdon and Shaun Murphy to reach the final, where he beat Mark Selby by 10-8 to win his first ranking event.
It was commonly accepted back then that those who went deep in the China Open, stood no chance in the World Championship. Nobody must have told Judd … He first had to qualify, which he did by beating David Gilbert by 10-4. He was drawn against the defending champion, Neil Robertson, and defeated him by 10-8 on the first day of the Championship. He then beat Martin Gould, Graeme Dott and Ding Junhui to reach the final. During the whole event he played extremely attacking snooker, “naughty snooker” as he branded it. He was a breath of fresh air, both at and off the table. The swag and the fashion statements were not everone’s cup of tea, but he definitely took the Crucible by storm that year.
I have never experienced anything like the atmosphere in the Crucible at the start of the final session that year. I was standing on the floor and still feel goosebumps just remembering it. Judd eventually lost by 18-15 to John Higgins but he had been the star of the tournament.
Judd started the next season ranked 9, a top 16 player for the first time. He finished the year in the best possible way by winning the 2011 UK Championship, his first “Triple Crown” event. He beat Mark Allen by 10-8 in a thrilling final, having defeated Dominic Dale, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Maguire and Neil Robertson en route.
With a hindsight, it is a bit surprising that it took him another 7+ years before winning another Triple Crown event.
Of course, 2011 was also an important year for John Higgins. John came back from his ban determined to redeem himself at the table and did just that: he won the 2011 World Championship. It had been a terrible year for John Higgins. At the 2011 German Masters, after winning his first round match, he was contacted by family because his father was extremely ill. John immediately left Berlin, but wasn’t able to make it to Scotland in time. When he arrived home, his father had passed away. John’s father had been his n°1 fan and was a familiar figure around tournaments. When John won his fourth – and to date last – World Championship he dedicated it to his late father.