Judd Trump holds off Ronnie O’Sullivan to secure Northern Ireland Open hat-trick
Judd Trump completed a hat-trick of Northern Ireland Open titles after beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in the final at Marshall Arena.
It was the third year in succession that the Ace and the Rocket were competing for the Alex Higgins Trophy in the second Home Nations event of the campaign.
And just like in the previous two, it was Trump who prevailed in Milton Keynes as he secured the 19th ranking title of his career and pocketed a cheque for £70,000.
The world number one was in control throughout the 10th meeting between the players in a final.
Indeed, he hit breaks of 128, 115 and 89 on the way to establishing an 8-5 lead, before withstanding an O’Sullivan fightback with a nerveless 89 to secure a third successive victory by a scoreline of nine frames to seven.
It also gave Trump his second ranking title of the campaign, adding to the English Open crown he sealed at the same venue last month.
“To win any tournament is tough nowadays,” Trump told Eurosport.
“This is my second win of the season so far. I’ve made a brilliant start and been very consistent.
“If you get a lead [against Ronnie], you’re never comfortable. Every time you make a mistake, you just want to set the balls up again because you know the frame is over. You just can’t leave anything on.
“I’m delighted with how I closed out the game because he looked like he was going to make it 8-8. Making these big clearances under pressure is important.”
Both players were looking to record a 12th victory over the other, having shared their previous 22 meetings with 11 wins apiece.
The early stages of the contest were scrappy, with a break of 69 from Trump the highlight as he opened up a 4-2 lead.
The Ace, who had won six of his nine previous meetings with O’Sullivan in finals, then produced a stunning 128 clearance to the pink, but the Rocket fired back with a magnificent 137 to stay within touching distance heading into the evening session.
Trump came flying out the blocks upon the resumption of play, with breaks of 89 and 55 helping him move 7-3 ahead.
O’Sullivan, who played on in both of those frames despite them being well beyond his reach, managed to respond in a scrappy 11th before arun of 63 saw him reduce the deficit to 7-5 at the mid-session interval.
Trump hit back with 115 to move to the brink of victory,but was sat in his chair for the following two frames as the Rocket stayed alive with breaks of 93 and 74.
The six-time World champion then had a great chance to make it 8-8, but broke down on 32 after rattling a red in the jaws of the left centre pocket.
World number one Trump wasted no time in clearing to the pink with 89 and breathed a huge sigh of relief as he finally crossed the finishing line.