Shaun Murphy won his first ranking title in three years by beating Mark Selby 10-6 in the final of the Haikou World Open in China.
PICTURES by Tai Chengzhe
Despite a late rally from Selby, who came from 7-2 down to 8-6, it was Murphy who captured the trophy and £85,000 top prize on the island of Hainan in southern China.
The feeling of holding a ranking title has been a long time coming for 31-year-old Murphy, whose last such victory was at the 2011 Players Tour Championship Grand Finals. He now has five ranking titles to his name in all, having won the 2005 World Championship, 2007 Malta Cup and 2008 UK Championship.
After winning the invitational Brazil Masters in September 2011, Manchester-based Murphy went 29 months without winning a tournament of any sort. Determined to end the drought, he worked long and hard on all aspects of his game, and also embarked upon a strict health regime which saw him lose over three stone. Improvements in his game, his fitness and his self esteem have been reflected in impressive results since the New Year and he tasted success at the Gdynia Open European Tour event last month.
This week’s triumph in the Far East is even more significant for Murphy, especially as it has come with victories over the likes of Ding Junhui, defending champion Mark Allen and close friend Selby. It’s a major step for the world number nine as he seeks to re-establish himself at snooker’s top table.
Murphy dominated the early stages of the final, going 4-0 up with top breaks of 64, 80 and 52. World number two Selby finally got going by taking the fifth frame, then made a 91 to close to 4-2.
But Murphy, blessed with a laser-straight cue action, found a rich seam of break-building with 98, 105 and 112 to establish a 7-2 advantage at the end of the first session.
Leicester’s Selby, who was seeking his fourth ranking title, started the evening session strongly with a break of 78 then cleared from the last red in the next to close to 7-4. As mistakes crept into Murphy’s game, Selby built momentum with runs of 43 and 34 to narrow the gap further.
Murphy crucially won the last frame before the interval with a run of 60 for 8-5. Selby took the next and looked set to make it 8-7 until he broke down on 49, allowing Murphy to make a superb 78 clearance. In frame 16, Murphy built a 71-0 lead in three scoring visits, and although Selby clawed his way back and battled hard for snookers, Murphy finally potted the pink to ensure victory.
“Mark was under no pressure at 7-2,” said Murphy. “I knew he would come back and that I would have to wait for my chances. We’re very good friends and we’ve beaten each other many times.
“Today was a good match, we both played well in parts. I’m so happy to win a ranking event again, it has been a long time. Snooker is a very tough game now so these events are hard to win. There are three more tournaments to go this season and maybe there’s something left in the tank.
“There’s no secret to it, I’ve just been working very hard and practising every day for a long time. It worked in Poland and it’s worked here. On Tuesday I’ll be back on the practice table.”
Selby, who was also runner-up at the UK Championship and the Masters, said: “In the first session I started badly. Giving someone of Shaun’s capability a 7-2 lead is hard to come back from. Shaun played very well all day. He punished me and won some really important frames, especially the one to go 9-6.”