Judd Trump reckons behind closed doors snooker gives the lower-ranked players a better chance of seizing his Crucible crown, writes Will Jennings.
Bristol’s world No.1 takes on Yan Bingtao in the second round of the World Championship on Thursday, having beaten Tom Ford in the tournament’s opening match to keep his hopes of defending his title alive.
Ranking event winner Bingtao is the current world No.16 and Trump believes the sound of Sheffield silence will only play into the underdog's hands.
“It was always going to be tough, especially with no crowds in and for the lower ranked players, they may have a better shot at it with less pressure out there,” the 30-year-old said.
“It’s going to be tough - everyone’s learning on the job out there and hopefully we can still produce a good standard.
“It’s so different for everyone - there’s still gong to be pressure out there, it’s still such a special arena and special atmosphere.
“The Crucible is so different to every other event for me and I’m sure everybody else feels the same - it’s exciting to be here.
“It will still be difficult but it perhaps gives the lower-ranked players and the inexperienced players a little bit of a better chance.”
Trump toppled Ford 10-8 and it was far from straightforward for the 17-time ranking event winner, as he was made to battle against an opponent who at one stage looked well-placed to achieve a maximum 147 break.
And that was a contest played in front of a limited number of fans, with the World Championship one of three sports events being used as part of a Government pilot scheme trialling the safe return of spectators.
That scheme - which also included Glorious Goodwood racing festival and domestic county cricket - was scrapped on Friday to dash Trump’s hopes of defending his title in front of supporters.
Trump knows he’ll face a sterner test than Ford against precocious 20-year-old Bingtao in round two, who won the Riga Masters earlier in the season after sparkling under the Latvian arena lights.
Trump, winner of six ranking events this season himself, has nothing but respect for the Chinese prodigy and knows he’ll have to be at his best to come out on top.
“He’s done amazing - I think he’s been in a lot of big tournaments and big finals, he’s won an event, which is amazing for his age,” he added.
“It normally takes players a lot longer to get through in this sort of era as there are a lot of 40-something year-olds.
“He’s very consistent and very mature beyond his years.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July -16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.