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Magician Out To Entertain

Murphy interacted with the crowd throughout this year’s World Championship.

Shaun Murphy has vowed to unleash his inner entertainer next season, after being inspired by a capacity Crucible crowd during his Betfred World Championship final showdown with Mark Selby.

The 2005 Crucible king defeated Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson on his way to a fourth world final, but fell short by an 18-15 scoreline after an epic clash with Selby earlier this month.

A hallmark of Murphy’s run to the title match, which involved his usual dazzling brand of attacking snooker, was his celebrations after winning key frames. The Englishman, who now resides in Dublin, fist pumped to the crowd on numerous occasions throughout the event.

Having spent much of his career holding back from celebrating key shots or breaks, Murphy admits that it is now his intention to fully embrace the crowd and show his emotions in the match arena. He believes that an unwritten rule of etiquette among some members of the professional ranks means that it is seen as poor form to celebrate during play.

With society beginning to emerge from a pandemic which has seen the snooker circuit being played behind closed doors, the Magician believes it is more important than ever to entertain the paying public.

“It has always baffled me that you don’t see more of that in snooker. We are always so restrained with our emotions. I’ve never understood it. Tennis players celebrate after every point, golfers celebrate if they make a birdie or an eagle mid-round. We must be one of the most pedestrian sports around when it comes to showing emotion,” said 38-year-old Murphy.

“Certainly from my point of view, having lived the last 12 months the way I have, I am not prepared to do that anymore. I am going to take as much enjoyment as I can from everything that I do. I want to try to connect with the fans. The feedback I’ve had is that it was nice to see some emotion and to have shown how much it meant to me. I think that stuff is important.

“I suppose snooker has its roots set in the old days of the Leicester Square Hall, slicked back hair and men in dinner suits. That is the history. People like Joe Davis and John Pulman wouldn’t have been jumping around the arena after knocking in a match ball black. It feels like I’ve opened Pandora’s box purely by accident. I’ve just decided to play on my emotions a bit more and let people in. I gave to them and they gave to me. It is no more complicated than that. If it upsets a few of the players, then it upsets a few of the players. That is not my intention, but I won’t be holding back from entertaining the crowd. They are the most important people on our tour. Without them we have nothing. I won’t be holding back from entertaining them, just because it upsets a few snooker players.

“When you try to be somebody else, other than your actual self, life is very difficult. The fact is that I love to entertain. I am an entertainer. For years, I’ve kept that entertaining side of me under wraps. I’ve been trying to do the right thing, not upset anyone and not ruffle any feathers. I know if you do the fist pumps and interact with the crowd, it is frowned upon backstage in the player’s room. Everyone else seems to like it. I’ve just decided I’m not having that anymore. The last year has shown us that we never know what is coming round the corner. Life can be stopped in a heartbeat, so I am going to try 100 percent in every match and I’m going to try at all times to put on a show for the crowd.”

The sold out audience provided a gladiatorial setting for the final day, in which Murphy fiercely pursued the steely Selby. He came in 10-7 down after the first two sessions and never managed to overturn the deficit, with Selby stoically nursing his advantage to claim a fourth world title. Murphy remains deeply disappointed not to have claimed a second Crucible crown. However, he admits that in recent years he had given up hope of climbing snooker’s mountain again, having previously only won two World Championship matches since reaching the final in 2015.

Heading into this year’s Sheffield finale, it had been a difficult season for Murphy, who had only mustered one run to a semi-final and another to a quarter-final in ranking competitions. His experiences inside the Crucible cauldron have restored his belief that another World Championship win may not be too far away.

“The truth is that over the last few years I had lost the belief. I’d won ranking events and big tournaments like the Welsh Open and the China Championship. However, my belief in terms of winning a World Championship or a Triple Crown event had probably gone. You’d never tell anybody that’s the case, as you don’t want to voice it or hear yourself admit it. I think it is the truth that I felt that way though. If I look back at previous performances I did look like a bit of a shell, a bit of a shadow of my former self. After the world final, I owe so much to the crowd. The love and support that they gave me did bring me back, as I said after the match. It has breathed new life into me and whilst I didn’t win the championship, it has shown me that I can. It isn’t a forlorn hope and I can compete at the very top of the biggest events in the world. I’m itching to get the new season underway. I can’t wait to get out there again. I hope that we will be playing in front of crowds and normality continues to return.

“I’ve never heard a roar like the final day at the Crucible this year. The build up to the intros in the final session was hair raising. It was phenomenal to be backstage waiting to be called. I could barely hear Rob Walker say my intro and barely knew when to walk out. It was a fabulous experience and I think the last 12 months has given me the perspective not to take things like that for granted. The nerves, the energy and passion have been gone for a year. For me, going forward, I want to embrace all of those things.

“The competitive person inside me says that nobody plays for second place. I’d be telling lies if I didn’t admit that I am a little bit sore about it, just as I am still a little bit sore about the losses in the 2009 and the 2015 finals. I think if you weren’t disappointed having lost in the biggest match of your life, then you are probably in the wrong game. However, as a 38-year-old father of two, I am now able to look at it from a slightly more mature perspective and I am not going to let losing the final spoil a great three weeks in my life. In terms of performance, it turned my year around and ended a poor season on a high note. I was playing in front of a packed audience, myself and Mark are the only two players on the tour that have been able to do that over the last 12 months. It was special to be a part of and I’ll never forget the energy, love and support that the crowd showed me.”