Masters champion Judd Trump won a barnstorming clash with snooker’s fastest player Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-9 to reach the second round of the Betfred World Championship.
The highly anticipated meeting between two of the sport’s most natural talents lived up to its pre-match billing. Trump has enjoyed his best season on the World Snooker Tour, having picked a second Triple Crown title at the Masters and he secured further wins at the Northern Ireland Open and the World Grand Prix.
Un-Nooh has averaged just 17.11 seconds per shot this season, which is quicker than any other player on the circuit. Appropriately, he won his maiden ranking title at the single frame Shoot Out earlier this year. The Thai was making his second Crucible appearance this week, having come through qualifying for the last two years.
The pair produced fireworks aplenty in snooker’s Theatre of Dreams. Un-Nooh led 6-3 after an opening session which lasted just over two hours. Throughout the entire match both players averaged under 20 seconds per shot.
Trump stormed to the opening frame of the morning with a superb break of 82. Un-Nooh responded to move 7-4 in front, before Trump took four frames on the bounce to lead for the first time since the opening frame at 8-7.
They continued to trade blows, with Un-Nooh restoring parity thanks to a contribution of 69. Trump moved one from victory at 9-8, then Un-Nooh ensured the match went to a decider as a sublime break of 78 made it 9-9.
Un-Nooh had first chance and made 26 before running out of position when trying to open the pack off of a red. Trump converted a risky cross double on a red to set up a break of 53. The match came down to a safety battle with two reds remaining, and a crucial mis-cue from Un-Nooh proved his last meaningful shot, as he left Trump the chance to add ten points which proved enough.
“I was making him work for his chances, his long potting was a lot better and he was scoring a lot heavier. I was relieved to get a half chance in the last frame after he had split the balls open,” said ten-time ranking event winner Trump. “Thepchaiya was one of the names that everyone wanted to avoid. I think he’s one of the best players and he’s still probably improving. He has a scary style to play against. He goes for everything and puts you under a lot of pressure. I’m very relieved, to come back from 6-3 down is a great win for me.
“You just don’t want to go out in the first round here. I think the top 16 put a bit of extra pressure on themselves and in the end it was probably my experience which got me over the line today.”
Un-Nooh said: “Last year was my first time at the Crucible and there was a lot of pressure. I learned from that experience. I was relaxed in the first session, but I did put a lot of pressure on myself today. Hopefully I can get back here next year.”
On the other table, Crucible specialist Barry Hawkins surged into an 8-1 lead over Li Hang and needs just two more frames when they resume at 7pm tonight.
Hawkins has won more matches at the Sheffield venue than any other player over the last six years, reaching the final in 2013 and four other semi-finals.
And the Londoner, who turned 40 yesterday, dominated the opening session against China’s Li, one of seven players making a Crucible debut this year. Breaks of 84, 85, 77 and 55 helped Hawkins take an 8-0 lead. Li won the last frame to avoid the risk of a whitewash, but he needs nine of the last ten tonight.