Double-defending champion Judd Trump admitted he can’t wait for a third successive Northern Ireland Open final showdown against world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, after booking his spot in the showpiece with victory over David Grace. 

The 31-year-old recovered from losing the match’s opening frame to rattle off the next five, eventually prevailing 6-2 against the World No.67 in the second semi-final in Milton Keynes, where the tournament is being staged due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Trump is bidding to become the first player since Stephen Hendry to win the same event three years running, and will line up against the Rocket for the third year on the spin having seen him off 9-7 in both the 2018 and 2019 versions of the tournament. 

And despite his favourable record in the competition, and the fact he tops the current world rankings, the Bristol potter believes six-time Crucible winner O’Sullivan is the favourite to lift the coveted trophy. 

“Everyone’s the underdog when they play Ronnie,” said Trump. “It’s a new challenge because I’m normally the favourite going into events, so it’ll be nice to play as freely as possible. 

“It’s incredible that it’s us two in the final for the third year in a row. We haven’t met that often, apart from in the Northern Ireland Open final. It’s a game I love playing and I seem to thrive in the big matches. 

“It’d be nice to win 9-7 again! I’ve just got to enjoy it, and hopefully I can go out and play well, win the event and be able to defend my title back out in Northern Ireland next year.” 

Victory over Leeds-based Grace - competing in just his second ranking event semi-final - followed Trump’s earlier wins against Gerard Greene, Gao Yang, Luca Brecel, Martin Gould and Scott Donaldson. 

And having notched a maximum 147 break in Round 2 and made a ton and four half-century breaks in his latest outing, the 2019 world champion is confident he is producing the same level of form that earned him the English Open title in October. 

He added: “I was pretty solid and I felt I played well, particularly after the interval. I felt confident and I scored heavily, so overall it was a pretty good performance against David. 

“There was no pressure out there; you just make of it what you want. You go out there to have fun, to enjoy yourself. If you put yourself under pressure you end up losing games you shouldn’t. 

“I’m used to playing on the table now, and it was playing really nicely. The balls weren’t quite splitting as they normally do on a new cloth, but when they were open in the last few frames I scored heavily.” 

Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport app, and stream on discovery+