JUDD Trump became the new tournament favourite at the Wyldecrest Parks PTC Finals on Thursday night after whitewashing Shaun Murphy 4-0 in Preston.
Trump and Murphy, recent winner of the Haikou World Open, are two players who have rediscovered some of their best form since the turn of the year.
World No6 Trump reached the final of the German Masters in Berlin in February after a series of early exits and disappointing displays last year.
But it was one-way traffic at the Guildhall as the 24-year-old Trump rattled in breaks of 58, 53, 65 and 73 to surge into Friday’s quarter-finals and a date with Joe Perry.
Either of these players would have been well placed to profit from victory and put in a real title charge, with many of the big names gone and Murphy himself already having disposed of world No1 Neil Robertson.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby are also out and Trump said: “The first couple of frames we both had chances but I was confident out there and my safety was the best it has been for a while.
“I have been playing well recently and only lost good matches to John Higgins, who is probably one of the three greatest players of all time, so that is no disgrace.
“That didn’t knock me. I saw Ronnie O’Sullivan go out before my match, and in a way I would have liked to have played and beaten him.
“But it does perk people up when he goes out of the draw, and they think they have more chance of winning.
“That said I have a hard match against Joe Perry, he has beaten me the last couple of times so I know I have to play well again.”
Just a few short months ago Trump would not have featured in any calculations for next month’s World Championships.
But he may be running into form at the right time for another title tilt in Sheffield, where he lost to O’Sullivan in the semi-finals 12 months ago.
Gerrard Greene produced a Lazarus-like recovery against Anthony Hamilton, coming through a marathon match 4-3 after trailing 3-0.
Greene will now take on fellow Northern Irishman Mark Allen for a place in Saturday’s semi-finals.
Photographs by Monique Limbos