Judd Trump is my last pick as a Crucible contender and a player I have long believed could be world champion, ever since I first saw him play at the age of ten.
All ‘natural’ talents have had to work hard, and Trump is no different, but there is no doubt he seems to have an innate aptitude for snooker.
He has always had an equally large appetite for playing. Indeed, it has been his life since boyhood and, despite the trappings of success, it still excites him, just as his brand of snooker excites so many.
Some have criticised Trump’s ultra attacking style of play, usually people who have never won anything, in snooker or any other walk of life.
The truth is, he can play however he likes. It’s worked pretty well for him so far.
Stephen Hendry drew similar criticism when he broke through. Some in the game couldn’t believe he had the nerve to go for everything and, of course, pot most.
In fact, he was – laughably, looking back – labelled the ‘worst ever world champion’ in 1990 by a couple of former players.
Trump is yet to be world champion but came very close two years ago, running John Higgins to 18-15 in the final.
Last year, the wheels came off against Ali Carter. Trump led 12-9 but lost 13-12. The pressure came on. It was the end of the honeymoon.
This season he won the International Championship, plus a PTC in Bulgaria. By Christmas he had made 40 centuries but he has only made 14 since.
His season definitely dipped noticeably after losing 6-5 from 5-2 up to Mark Joyce in the first round of the UK Championship. Since then, aside from a run to the Welsh Open semi-finals, Trump’s form has not been good.
But the World Championship stands alone and there’s no reason to believe he can’t have a good run at the Crucible. What he has on his side is youth and the confidence which goes with it.
Since Ronnie O’Sullivan’s hibernation, Trump has been the go-to player for feature writers and it could work in his favour that O’Sullivan’s return have sent them all scurrying back to the defending champion, leaving Trump to prepare for the World Championship away from all the hype.
This is only Trump’s fourth Crucible appearance. On his first he was 17 and there for the experience. In 2011 he played as China Open champion and was hailed for bringing a fresh approach to the game.
Last year he was regarded as one of the favourites, as he is this year. He at least has the experience of playing in the World Championship as one of the hunted to call on.
He has the ability to obliterate opponents when scoring heavily but his tactical game is also very sound.
Like any other player this year, it’s just a question of whether or not it all comes together in sustained spells in these long matches.
If it does, Trump has every chance to make good on his long held potential.