Falling to earth from such a lofty pedestal was always going to hurt.
If Judd Trump was blighted by a strained shoulder before suffering a quite galling 10-8 loss to 1,000-1 shot Rory McLeod, a qualifier boasting similar odds at the Crucible as Nigel Bond becoming the next James Bond, it will be nothing compared to the pain he feels for the next few weeks amid the desolation of defeat.
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For a man who had declared bullishly on the cusp of this tournament that this was “his time” to finally conquer the world, falling so sharply in the first round must have felt like hitting the ground without a parachute. He has time to reflect, and may choose to avoid the rest of this World Championship as a TV viewer.
He could not be blamed. Nor should he be chastised too much for failing to speak to the media afterwards. At such times in life, it is easy to be lost for words.
Giving yourself the big sell is perhaps never shrewd, but we are all wise after the event. Especially when Trump’s attacking optimism appeared to be founded in fact: he is world number two, had lifted ranking tournaments at the European Masters and the Players Championship for the first time in season and had reached three other finals to suggest that his billing as joint-tournament favourite alongside defending champion Mark Selby was wholly justified.
“Mark Selby is especially tough to beat, but there's no-one else particularly to fear," said Trump almost tempting fate.
McLeod has apparently assembled around £500,000 in career earnings over 26 years with a cue in hand. Trump had garnered £345,000 this season alone. What looked a mismatch became a nightmare on Norfolk Street.
Yet it should not be ignored that the World Championship is a different animal from anything else in snooker. Everything else is small beer in comparison where a total of 71 frames are needed to emerge triumphant.
If Trump had been playing McLeod – curiously nicknamed after the lead character in 1986 film The Highlander despite being about as Scottish as the French actor Christopher Lambert who portrayed him – elsewhere, the match would have been over in about an hour. He surged 4-0 ahead, and was seemingly laughing.
Few would have foreseen the majestic Bristol talent encountering mulishness from the battle-hardened McLeod, the world number 54 from Wellingborough, as Trump eventually surrendered over six hours and 44 minutes with a highest break of only 65.
It was old-school snooker in which a gnarled guy from another generation armed with only three 50 plus breaks proved that the glorious but unfashionable art of grinding has not yet been lost on the green baize.
Whether a wincing shoulder problem prompted this defeat should not disguise the fact that Trump deserved to lose to a qualifier who turned professional aged 19 in 1991, a year after he was born. Bizarrely enough, Trump should take some solace from McLeod’s longevity. Good things come to those wait.
McLeod might be as slow as rust, but there is nothing rusty about his approach after 26 years as a professional, man and boy.
Like Trump, any professional sport’s leading characters continue to be unfastened by their own expectations; the intense pressure they place on themselves greater than any foe. The race is long, and it is only ever against yourself.
McLeod’s modest hopes amount to qualifying for the World Championship, he has only made it here three times in three decades. Trump’s lot involves making good on his early promise by clasping the old pot won by so many of the game's giants.
If he fails to win the World Championship, he might view his career as a failure such are the demands he places on himself and his vast ability. But fail he might.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Trump's strained world title dream under threat from snooker's cultural revolution