Defending champion Judd Trump is through to a second successive 19.com Northern Ireland Open final after a 6-3 defeat of John Higgins at the Waterfront Hall.
Trump’s victory last year here in Belfast marked the start of a golden season. He defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in a thrilling final and went on to win maiden titles at the Masters and the World Championship. Tomorrow Trump will face either O’Sullivan or Joe Perry in the final for the Alex Higgins Trophy and a top prize of £70,000.
This will be Trump’s fourth final in what has already been a very impressive campaign for the Bristolian. Victories at the International Championship and the World Open have solidified his position at the top of the world rankings. 30-year-old Trump also narrowly lost out 10-9 to Neil Robertson in a thrilling final at last week’s Champion of Champions.
Higgins leaves Belfast disappointed, having lost his third consecutive match against Trump. The Wizard of Wishaw fell short in the World Championship final back in May and was also pipped 6-5 in the semi-finals of this season’s World Open.
Both players struggled in the early stages of this afternoon’s encounter. However, it was Trump who edged to an early 2-1 lead. Higgins then composed a run of 78 to restore parity at the mid-session.
When they returned Higgins carried forward his momentum with a break of 88, which saw him take to the front at 3-2.
However, from there Trump seized control of the game. He edged scrappy sixth and seventh frames to move 4-3 ahead. A break of 67, aided by a sublime development shot from the black, saw him move one from victory. Trump then wrapped up the tie with a break of 136 to emerge with a 6-3 win.
Trump said: “It wasn’t up until 4-3, when I played a good shot off the black, that I started to play well. It just gave me a bit of inspiration and I was able to close the match out. John has come back at me a million times before, so I know how dangerous he is.
“The crowd support I have got here over the last couple of years has helped me. It certainly helped me last year and it did again today. At times I was very patchy and missed easy balls. Them calling out and giving their encouragement helped. I think they have warmed to me. Especially at the end when I won I felt the love out there.”
Higgins said: “I missed a trick there I think. Judd wasn’t as sharp as he has been for the rest of the tournament, but when he had to he stepped up.
“I have no complaints. I had enough chances there and I didn’t take them. If you look at the quality of chances that I got and didn’t take advantage of, I have nobody to blame but myself.”