|Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 16 April-2 May
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and the BBC Sport app
Former world champion Judd Trump says he wants to “refind” his love for snooker – a sport he believes has taken a “backward step”.
Trump, 32, has had a mediocre season by his standards, winning only one ranking event and another invitational.
And he told BBC Sport events in the UK have lacked quality and not had the “same prestige” as those in China.
In a lengthy statement, the World Snooker Tour (WST) said it “did not agree with Judd’s comments”.
After winning the 2019 World Championship, Englishman Trump hit a rich vein of form and won a remarkable 11 ranking titles across the following two seasons.
But this campaign has been less successful, with his only success coming at the Champion of Champions tournament and the inaugural Turkish Masters.
When asked how he was feeling heading into the season-ending showpiece in Sheffield, Trump said: “Nothing this year. I have not played as well as I can and don’t really expect anything from this tournament.
“It is a bit of a different feeling and just another event. It is not even an off season – it is a good season for any other player. I just haven’t enjoyed my snooker and not had the same buzz.
“After playing so many games over the last couple of years, it has taken it out of me.”
‘Venues have been disappointing’
Snooker was one of the first sports to return following the shutdown at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and almost the whole of last season was played in a bubble environment at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
This season, three events were staged overseas – in Berlin, Antalya and Gibraltar – but the sport is yet to return to lucrative tournaments in the Far East.
Trump added: “The quality of the tournaments hasn’t been very good. We have not had the China events, all the events have been smaller and not had the same prestige. It just doesn’t feel special.
“Some of the venues have been poor. This [World Championship] is good, the Masters is good but other than that it has been disappointing.”
In response, the WST told BBC Sport: “We always strive to provide quality venues and conditions for the players, and we have had packed crowds at all tournaments.
“We are doing all we can to expand our tour and add new tournaments. It’s not straightforward in the current global conditions but we explore every avenue.
“It’s frustrating that we can’t stage events in China at the moment. We have lines of communication open with China and as soon as it is possible to return, we will be back.
“Despite the incredibly difficult time the world has faced, snooker is one of the few sports which has continued to grow.”
‘Crucible is special but things can change’
The World Championship takes place at the 980-capacity Crucible Theatre for the 45th year, but the nature of the venue means it struggles to modernise and add features such as corporate hospitality.
By contrast, London’s Alexandra Palace – which hosts the Masters – holds over 2,000 spectators and offers VIP packages. A number of players said this year’s tournament was the best atmosphere they had experienced.
“I just feel [the World Championship] could do with trying to play elsewhere one year,” suggested Trump, who plays Iranian debutant Hossein Vafaei in the first round. “It is a special venue but things can always change.
“The hospitality side of it can be better and it is so difficult to get that in the Crucible. It is special when it gets down to the one-table set-up but the two-table set-up is cramped.
“I would rather play in front of more people. The more people the better the atmosphere. The Masters nowadays has overtaken this one by far. The more people you can get in makes you feel more alive.
“You can relax, be yourself and get involved with the game, that is what makes the Masters so special.
“This event is always going to be special but I’m not as excited now as I was went I used to turn up before.”
Trump hinted he might need to take time off to rekindle his joy for the sport, saying: “I am always someone that promotes the game but at the moment it is taking a backward step with less and less tournaments.
“It doesn’t look like the game is on an upward spiral and for me it will be better to step away and get my head right.
“I need to get away after this tournament and get my head back.”
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