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Hearn hopes fans will return for final as Trump battles through

 

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On cue: Judd Trump en route to his victory at the Crucible

On cue: Judd Trump en route to his victory at the Crucible

PA

On cue: Judd Trump en route to his victory at the Crucible

Barry Hearn hopes fans might be allowed back to the Crucible in time for the World Snooker Championship final after the government brought an early end to the experiment of socially-distanced fans on the first day of the tournament.

The World Snooker Tour chairman said the handful who did make it in yesterday morning had the "ultimate golden ticket" as they saw defending champion Judd Trump put on the back foot by Tom Ford, who led 5-4 at the end of the session after winning the first three frames.

In the end, Trump fought back to claim a 10-8 victory.

But after those fans had taken their seats, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a lunchtime announcement in which he said the pilot schemes must end due to fears over a rising number of coronavirus cases.

Fans with tickets for yesterday's play were let in for the afternoon and evening session, but the tournament will continue behind closed doors from today.

"It leaves us on Plan B, we are going to be resilient, we'll get through as we always will and Plan B is to revert to behind closed doors," Hearn said.

"There is a chance, I'm ever the optimist, of a return for the final. In the meantime, I'm gutted, of course, the work the team has done, an amazing job.

"Health and safety is paramount and the show must go on - and this show is going on. Congratulations to those guys who were here today because they've had the experience as ever, the ultimate golden ticket!"

The decision to remove fans came after qualifier Anthony Hamilton withdrew from the event saying he feared for his health as a chronic asthmatic, leading to criticism from Hearn and others that he had prevented someone else from playing.

Following yesterday's news, Hearn remained unmoved.

"He pulled out, made his position clear," he said. "Good luck, see you later son."

Those 'golden tickets' got fans in to see a fascinating battle between Trump, the favourite here after piling up a record-breaking six titles in the abridged season to date, and Ford.

Ford was on track for a 147 in the very first frame before missing the 13th red. He then took a 3-0 lead as he punished mistakes from Trump.

The best chance came in the third frame when Trump rallied from 64-22 down and needed only the final black to take the frame, but he left himself with a difficult shot, missed, and watched Ford take it instead.

A break of 104 got Trump on the board and he cut the deficit to one with a break of 62 in the fifth. Ford responded with a clearance of 140 to restore his two-frame advantage and moved 5-2 up.

But Ford gave Trump a let-off in the next frame, and a break of 53 saw Trump cut the deficit.

The match took another key turn in the ninth frame. With Ford 48-0 up, he missed a straight pink and Trump, under pressure, capitalised with a break of 61 to make it 5-4. Then came last night's conclusion.

Belfast Telegraph