Judd Trump overcame a mid-game scare to finally beat Barry Hawkins 6-3 and secure his place in the Champion of Champions final in Bolton.
Trump, the world No. 2, had raced into a 5-0 lead at the University of Bolton stadium, but was pegged back by a spirited Hawkins to 5-3.
In the fourth encounter between these two men, 2021 champion Trump was the firm favourite, and stamped his authority on the match after an edgy start, knocking a long red before superseding Hawkins’ 61 break and making the most of a loose Hawkins safety on the brown, with Trump knocking it in and clearing the table to seize first blood.
Trump, in his fifth successive Champion of Champions semi-final, overcame an early Hawkins lead, striking back after another loose safety from the Hawk with a long red, and a break of 69 doubled the Ace’s lead.
He was in full control in the third frame, flowing freely as he raced into a 53-15 lead, moving halfway to victory with a further 71 contribution, and his momentum continued into the fourth with a run of 39, before another 27 had Trump two frames from the final.
A long red put him in the driving seat in the fifth, and a run of 67 put him 76-1 up, with Hawkins, in his first Champion of Champions semi-final, struggling to keep pace. A break of 99 sealed the frame for Trump, who seemed to be cruising into his second final, and continuing his winning streak after lifting the trophies in Wuhan and Northern Ireland.
Hawkins however, desperate to avert the whitewash, started the sixth frame well, going up 24-1, and he stopped the rot with a run of 67 to force Trump into at least another frame.
The world No. 2 was losing control of proceedings, with Hawkins growing in confidence every time he stepped up to the table. Hawkins took a 49-0 lead in the seventh, and took his second frame to get himself within three.
A routine miss on the red to the right corner made sure that the eighth frame started just as poorly for Trump, with the crowd switching their allegiance to the resurgent Hawkins, as chants of “Come on, Barry!” filled the arena.
Trump failed to capitalise on a missed black off the blue spot to the left centre, and again he failed to put away a Hawkins red miss as he failed to pot a yellow.
Hawkins duly delivered, potting the yellow and then the brown to take his third frame, with the momentum really starting to shift, and the 2021 champion was getting tetchy.
Hawkins crunched a long red to the right corner, before underhitting another to the left corner, giving Trump the opening he needed to finally close the match out.
The Ace took the lead at last, and won it, finally, to drag himself into Sunday’s final, where he will face either Mark Allen or John Higgins.
After the match, Trump’s relief was clear for all to see.
“Delighted to get over the line because it was getting a little bit twitchy at the end,” he told ITV.
“I was in full control, playing good at 5-0, and then I went to roll up behind the green, and ended up rolling off a little bit, and then he potted that. He missed a couple in the last couple of frames, and I had some chances to get over the line.
“I’ve not felt good all week, really, compared to my other tournament wins. But I’ve managed to battle through and hopefully every day I wake up, [I hope] it’s going to change, but it hasn’t yet, but there’s still time.
“I was disappointed because I missed a few at the end. I felt I potted a plant at 5-0, I went to roll behind the green and it rolled off, and that threw me a little. I felt like he potted a really good ball and he seemed to be more fluent after that. It shook me a little and at 5-3 I felt I had to get out to the table, still 5-3 up, and go again. Falling over the line like that isn’t great, but a win’s a win.”
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