Judd Trump says his second Masters triumph is even more special than his first after battling past Mark Williams in an Alexandra Palace epic.
And the former world No.1 hit back at critics who claimed he was past his peak – claiming his Welsh opponent’s longevity is proof he has more than a decade left in the tank.
Bristol ace Trump, 33, clinched a memorable final 10-8 on Sunday night to emulate his 2019 title in North London.
Both players were far from perfect over the 18 frames, with 2019 world champion Trump admitting that it was the worst he’d played across the tournament.
But Trump, who has endured a turbulent season on the snooker circuit, showed huge grit under immense pressure to scramble over the line.
He edged past Ryan Day, Barry Hawkins and Stuart Bingham to tee up a Sunday showpiece with Williams and admits toppling the three-time world champion gave him even more satisfaction than winning the event four years ago.
He said: “This is definitely more special for me [than winning the Masters in 2019]. It felt like it was well overdue.
“It’s been a tough 18 months after winning so much, to go from that and then come back down and everyone writing you off.
“I’ve read a lot of stuff like his best days are already behind him so to do that, not playing my best and digging in, and to beat someone as good as Mark Williams is incredible.
“It’s easily the worst I’ve played but my best result. I didn’t play well in any game and should have easily lost three out of the four games.
“I was just able to battle through. Ryan Day let me off the hook, Barry Hawkins the same thing and probably Mark again tonight.”
Two-time champion Williams, who was bidding to become the oldest Triple Crown event winner at the age of 47, took six of the next eight frames at 4-1 down to make it 7-6 before an epic tactical battle in the 14th tested the players’ nerves to the limit.
Trump eventually prevailed after 58 gruelling minutes to level the match, but momentum swung again in the Welshman’s favour with a superb 107 break – his third century of the day.
Trump remained undaunted, however, and with his opponent two frames from victory, a perfectly-executed double and a tricky long red fired him to within one.
And just like his form throughout the tournament, Trump accelerated towards the finish line, capitalising on Williams’ failed attempt on an awkward red to make a 126 break for the victory.
“It was amazing. Time just stopped and every ball felt so hard,” said Trump on the final frame.
“I was looking at the score, counting down the points and ended up splitting into the pack and the balls went everywhere.
“It was never really in doubt. I didn’t feel too nervous or anything at the end but the manner and how big a win this was for me was building up. It was a really special one.”
And on his opponent, Trump lauded Williams, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan's timelessness, with the decorated trio showing no signs of slowing down.
“Mark is still playing brilliant snooker, outplayed me for most of the game so hopefully I can have the longevity of some of those players,” said Trump.
“He thinks his best years are way behind him. But for me, I don’t know what will stop these guys. I can see them being a problem for at least seven, 10 years.”