Trump ready to master his trade
Like the supercars he loves to drive, Judd Trump is firing on all cylinders just now.
But snooker's principal box office star in Ronnie O'Sullivan's continuing absence has admitted the growing demands on his shoulders had left him "drained" by the halfway stage of this season.
Trump was desperate for the break he has enjoyed since relinquishing the UK Championship title and world number one ranking at a stroke in York last month.
A first-round defeat to Mark Joyce floored Trump at the Barbican Centre, and he departed not only with his spirits low but with his energy sapped.
After soaking up sun in Dubai and indulging a craving at Alexandra Palace with a night at the PDC World Darts Championship soon after Christmas, Trump has picked up his cue again and is raring to go at the Betfair Masters, which starts on Sunday.
"I've hardly played since the UK Championship," Trump said. "I took a nice break from what's felt like quite a long season so far."
The loss to Joyce was the tipping point, with Trump having been running on adrenaline until then.
"I just felt drained," he said. "Before that I was going from one tournament to the other without much of a break, and it was nice in a way to finish early in York and settle down for three to four weeks and just chill out."
Trump, 23, was building up to a return to Alexandra Palace for snooker's most prestigious invitational event by competing this week in the Championship League, a curious event played behind closed doors at an Essex country club but streamed to dozens of betting websites worldwide.
The prize pot is small, particularly when compared to the £175,000 on offer to the Masters champion on Sunday week, but for Trump it was a handy opportunity to get back in the groove.
"It's literally a couple of cameramen and that's it, but conditions are very good and there's not a lot of pressure," he said.
"I'm feeling pretty good now, quite confident. It's been a pretty good season so far, I'm just excited to get going at the Masters.
"Last year was probably the first time I'd gone into the Masters thinking I could win it. I had a decent run and beat Ronnie O'Sullivan quite convincingly before Neil Robertson played well against me in the semi-finals and went on to win the tournament."
Trump carried off the title at the International Championship, the richest tournament outside the UK, in November and has reached two other finals this season.
He has half an eye on reclaiming the top ranking from Mark Selby, who landed the UK title, but Trump says: "It's not my main aim: my main aim is to win tournaments and to win as many as I can. I'd be more pleased to win the Masters than to scrape back the number one spot."
There are no ranking points on offer from the Masters, so there can be no movement on that front quite yet, allowing Trump to bring a single-minded focus to his matches, starting with his opener against Barry Hawkins on Tuesday.
He is the bookmakers' favourite for the title, which would be his first at the Masters, and with his flashy manner around the table and charisma he can expect to have crowds on his side.
In the absence of one-time Masters favourite Jimmy White, and also O'Sullivan, said this week to be passing his time during his break from snooker with a spot of farm labouring, Trump stands to assume the mantle of being darling of the crowds.
He finds it odd that O'Sullivan, who put his career on hold to deal with some personal issues, will not be involved.
"It'll be a little bit strange because I'd say it's Ronnie's favourite tournament, being so close to home, and he's always had unbelievable support in London," Trump said.
"I'm a little bit surprised he's not in it. But there's so many good players.
"I know that if I play well, my record shows I have got a good chance of winning the tournament, but in my eyes John Higgins is favourite."