Suffering from the effects of a chronic neck injury, Shaun Murphy played “95 percent of shots in complete agony” as he came from 5-3 down to beat Judd Trump 6-5 and reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.
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Murphy rose to the occasion at the business end as breaks of 110, 104 and 53 gave him the last three frames, earning a meeting with Hossein Vafaei or Jack Lisowski on Friday evening.
Murphy won this event in 2008
World number 13 Murphy has struggled with neck pain for eight years, and after a flare-up a few days ago, he tweeted this morning to say: “In terrible pain today with my neck / shoulder. Going to try everything to be ready to play at 1pm but right now it’s not looking good.”
But a combination of massage and stretching enabled him to compete, and it turned out to be one of Murphy’s best victories of recent years as he knocked out a player ranked ten places higher and reached his first quarter-final in this event for five years. The result means that Ronnie O’Sullivan is the only player ranked inside the world’s top eight left in the line-up in York.
In fact Murphy was immediately into his stride with a break of 100, then Trump made it 1-1 with an 89. In frame three, Trump led 66-30 when he missed a tricky pot on the yellow with two reds left, and Murphy punished him with a 43 clearance. Frame four was dominated by Trump and in the fifth he got the better of a tactical exchange on the green, capitalising on a safety error from Murphy to go 3-2 up. Trump’s run of 62 helped him double his lead.
Frame seven came down to a long battle on the colours, and a tremendous long pot on the brown from Murphy set him up to close the gap to 4-3. Trump got the better of an exchange on the last red in frame eight, as he went 5-3 ahead. After a 110 in the ninth, Murphy was on for a 147 in frame ten until he failed to gain position on the penultimate red, but the 104 was enough for 5-5.
First chance in the decider went Murphy’s way and he made 44 before playing safe. Trump had a chance to counter, but left a difficult red to a top corner in the jaws of the pocket and that proved his last shot as Murphy added 53.
“As the dust settles and I think about where that features in my best wins, it will probably be up there,” said 40-year-old Murphy. “I’ve never let my head drop and I knew at 5-3 every frame is my last. I was just lucky that I got a chance in all three of them and the hours of practice that I have been putting in came out.
“I played 95 percent of my shots in complete agony. I was very close to pulling out. I always have one of those massage guns that you can treat yourself with, I was looking for it last night and realised I hadn’t brought it to York. This morning my friend Robbie and I dashed to the shops looking for one. We finally found one, got a taxi back to the hotel, and had 40 minutes with the massage gun in the dressing room. It’s very painful, but it’s either quit or try. And I chose to try.”
Trump said: “I didn’t get much of a chance from 5-3. By the last frame, I’d been frozen out for 30 minutes. When I had a chance at the red, I just tried to drop it in dead weight knowing that if I missed it was game over. They’re the ones that you have to pot if you want to win tournaments. The way Shaun played in the last three frames, he deserved to win.”
Asked about Murphy’s pre-match tweet, Trump replied: “The way he started off with a century in the first frame just put all doubt to bed. He certainly played like he wasn’t injured. Everyone exaggerates to try and ease the pressure – people handle it in different ways. As soon as I saw him practising I knew that it was going to be a battle today.”
On the other table, three-time champion Ding Junhui hammered Jamie Clarke 6-1 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with O’Sullivan on Friday at 1pm. China’s Ding, winner of 14 ranking events, has slipped to number 38 in the world, but this week’s run will boost him back up the list as he is now guaranteed £25,000.
Ding took the opening frame with a break of 99. The second came down to the colours and Clarke went in-off when playing safe on the green, gifting his opponent a 2-0 lead. Breaks of 87 and 118 extended Ding’s advantage to 4-0 at the interval.
In frame five, Ding was on 55 when an attempted red to centre hit the far jaw, and Clarke made an impressive 55 clearance to pulled one back. He also had a scoring chance early in the sixth but made just 18 before missing a red to a corner pocket. Ding fluked a red to set a break of 67 to go 5-1 ahead. And 35-year-old Ding compiled another run of 67 in the next frame to wrap up the result.
“I know I can score well,” said Ding. “Sometimes I play a bad positional shot and that’s careless. So maybe I need to think more and keep the break going. I don’t want my top form for just one day, I’d rather be at 80 percent the whole week, that would be much better.
“It’s going to be a great match to play Ronnie. I’ll just try my best, see what happens. He’s the best player, what can I say? I want to play him more, as much as I can. Every shot I will just try to learn more and try some different things.
“There are always Chinese students in York who come and watch my games. They will be excited for tomorrow’s game so I’ll be concentrating harder.”