Time off Twitter has been time well spent for Judd Trump. The snooker sorcerer famed for wowing audiences across the globe with his own inimitable brand of ‘naughty snooker’ is a bit less mischievous when it comes to handling the wild, wild west of social networking these days.
Trump, the Masters champion and former UK Championship winner, once famously got busy tweeting when he was staring defeat in the face in the first round of the World Championship against Liang Wenbo three years ago. Trailing 7-6 at the final mid-session interval, he was in his dressing room and promptly informed the world: "drinks on me later if I get out of jail here".
He made it through 10-8 and generously bunged £200 behind the bar at a local boozer outside the Crucible Theatre.
He continued his social voyage by becoming embroiled in some jolly verbal volleys with fellow professional Dominic Dale during his last-16 match with Ding Junhui after Dale, working as pundit, had criticised his cue ball control. After making his point known during the mid-session interval with the score at 2-2, he promptly lost the next four frames and the match 13-10.
Trump held his nerve to clinch the final frame
Image credit: PA Sport
You live, you learn as they say. These days, he is a bit more wary. When he was in exactly the same situation trailing 7-6 to world number 43 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the first round, his mind was firmly on the job. He roared back, finally coming through 10-9, bolstered by a stunning cross double on a red when 26-0 behind, and bang in trouble deep in baulk and the reds well spread.
It was a quite magical, daring shot that summed up why he is nicknamed 'The Ace In The Pack', the equivalent of producing a royal flush when you face being wiped out.
Naughty but perhaps not so nice, the free bar tab can wait for greater glories.
“I’m still on social media a little bit, but not as much as I used to be,” said Trump. “I remember tweeting from my dressing room during the matches a few years ago.
I used to tweet a lot more, but the world is not as nice a place as it used to be. I don’t look at my phone during the games, I stay away from that.
“You don’t want to be thinking about other people when you are out there trying to win a game.”
There comes a time for every man to put away childish things. Trump is a decent bloke who plays a mighty fine white ball.
He banned himself from Twitter and Instagram last season for five months, but believes it has its value at the right time and place.
“After my games, I’ll interact a bit because it also very important to have the fans' support on your side,” said Trump. “You’ve got to remember fans play a big part, and it can be an extra one percent at times.
If you’ve got your back against the wall, the crowd are supporting you and it lifts you. You can totally block out what is happening on the table, but I think it is important to get that compromise.
“When the game is over, you have to respect everyone that has turned up and sign as many autographs and photographs as possible.”
Trump will turn 30 in August. This would be as good as time for Bristol's finest to win his first World Championship, but surviving the first round here must feel like being handed front row tickets to Woodstock.
Trump has seen and almost done it all in Sheffield since defeating the defending champion Neil Robertson eight years ago.
He was desperately unfortunate to lose the 2011 final to John Higgins, was beaten in the 2013 semi-finals by Ronnie O’Sullivan and suffered a particularly galling defeat to 1,000-1 outsider Rory McLeod in the first round two years ago. Trump had led 4-0, but his opponent progressed with a top break of 77 in six hours and 44 minutes of exacting snooker.
He concedes it can be a long, hot and bothered summer if you are forced to stew on underachieving in the sport’s grandest event.
“The first round is always tough. I don’t think I’ve ever played that well in the first round," said Trump. "I think you always know you have to up your game to get through, but you don’t want to be watching the tournament at home for two weeks.
“You want to be involved in it. I’m very pleased to get through that one. It’s a horrible experience losing early on.”
Trump finds himself in the unfortunate batch of players titled the greatest never to have won the old pot here alongside six-times finalist Jimmy White and 2016 runner-up Ding, who he will again confront in the last 16 over the best of 25 frames beginning on Saturday night.
“The best of 19 frames is long enough to give yourself a chance, but sometimes the pressure you put on yourself is too much, and you try too hard. It ends up backfiring,” said Trump.
“Today it was just about trying to enjoy yourself out there, trying to enjoy the Crucible atmosphere and enjoying playing Thepchaiya.
“It was a tough game especially going 6-3 down. Yesterday I was gifting him a lot of chances, and making it quite easy for him.
“I was pleased with how I played today. I didn’t play brilliantly, but it was good enough to put pressure on him and he started to miss a couple. You can put more pressure on yourself, but you’ve got to have a lot of belief to win these kind of titles.
“You don’t want to be going in thinking you are not good enough to win it, or you don’t fancy yourself against someone else.
“You’ve got to have the self-belief to produce the goods under pressure, and you probably seen that today. “
Trump has been heralded as the man to take snooker forward when the 40-something brigade, among their battle-scarred platoon world champion Mark Williams, who seem to have more longevity than Methuselah, finally pot their final blacks.
But he does not feel that is going to happen any time soon despite Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 10-8 defeat to 750-1 long shot James Cahill in the first round on Monday, the greatest upset in the 43rd year of Sheffield hosting this event.
Cahill clears up and bangs table in delight after beating O'Sullivan
“I think Ronnie has another 10 years left in him. It is going to be a long time before Ronnie retires,” said Trump. "It might not even be in my generation. He’ll be playing at 70 with his talent.”
There is a feeling that O’Sullivan almost transcends snooker, a bit like Roger Federer in tennis and Tiger Woods in golf, but Trump feels the green baize is in a healthy state to advance its cause as its global profile increases.
“It happens in every sport when you have that stand-out guy and everybody thinks the sport is not going to survive after they’ve left, and there is always someone that comes through,” said Trump.
I’d like to be the person to take over, but there are a lot of other top players coming through that maybe have not shown the talent of Ronnie O’Sullivan, but eventually you will get that person.
“You will get a person that will break the barriers, and beats Stephen Hendry’s record. There is always someone who is going to do that."
Trump started the fortnight as 5/1 joint-favourite to finally win this tournament. With Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven world titles unlikely to be touched any time in the distant future, Trump’s feels one gong here is something to behold in the modern era.
“I’m still young enough to keep improving. Seven world titles is maybe a bit out of my grasp now, but hopefully if I can get one out of the way I can relax and enjoy my career."
Being in the right frame of mind to win the key frames gives him a shot at glory.
Desmond Kane at the Crucible Theatre