World number nine Shaun Murphy hopes the new campaign will bring a greater degree of success, following a 21/22 season in which he was plagued by back and neck issues.
The Magician went on a dazzling run to the final of the 2021 World Championship, before being beaten 18-15 by Mark Selby. However, he was unable to carry that form into last term, where he suffered five opening round exits and only made one semi-final appearance.
Murphy’s injury problems appear to be easing after a summer away from the baize and we caught up with him to discuss the new season…
Shaun, first of all how difficult did you find last season with your back and neck problems and how are you feeling now?
“Touch wood, I seem to be keeping them at bay at the moment. I haven’t played a lot of snooker since the World Championship so the honest answer is that I don’t know. But I have been working on my flexibility and I’ve been doing stretches. I am doing what I can to make that better. Fingers crossed it won’t hinder me like it did last season. There is no doubt that it did cost me certain matches, despite my opponents also playing well at times, there were some moments when I wasn’t physically fit enough to play. Snooker is hard enough, but when you are in chronic pain it is twice as difficult.
“When you are in the practice room warming up for a match and you can barely get down to the shot, all sorts of things run through your mind. There were some very dark moments for me last season. The back and neck problems are still there but I am managing them now. I am learning the lessons of last season and I hope this season will be a better one. It can’t be any worse anyway.
“One of the things you have to understand as a snooker player is that you are not in complete control over whether you will win or whether you will lose. That is a difficult mindset to accept. All I am in control of is my preparation and attitude. If I can get back to playing lots with my neck and back feeling alright, then I can do some damage. All I can do is try my best.”
You played in the Cazoo Classic pro-am day alongside John Parrott and Dennis Taylor earlier this week at the DP World Tour event in Southport. How did you get on?
“It was fabulous. It was the first pro-am that I’ve played on the DP World Tour. It was a great experience with the crowd. It felt like a big event with all the sponsorship banners up and if you hit a good shot you get an applause, not that there was that much applause for our group. Any day you spend with Dennis and John is good craic and good fun. There were lots of stories told all of the way round. Our professional, Marcus Armitage, was great as well and he made it a really fun day.
What did you make of Cameron Smith’s win at the 150th Open in St Andrews and how did you feel about Rory McIlroy falling just short?
“I thought it was a phenomenal week. I really got engrossed in the whole 150th anniversary celebrations. The fact it was at St Andrews made it even more special. I was completely hooked by the coverage on Sky Sports, from the Champion’s Challenge to the driving range programmes. Very few people have watched as much golf as I did over the last week. In fact there will be broadcasters working for Sky who didn’t watch as much of it as I did. I really got into it.
“Snooker and golf are very similar. You can play very well and not win. In football you can set up to beat a certain team, whereas McIlroy couldn’t do anything about that run Cam Smith went on. When someone shoots 64 on the Sunday, you have to hold your hands up. In snooker you need to be a gracious loser at times and I thought McIlroy was very gracious at the Open. He would have been sick at the end but there is nothing you can do about it. He did very little wrong and I’m sure his time will come again.”
You had a very prominent punditry and commentary role with the BBC last year. Now you are doing it more regularly, has broadcasting been different from what you expected it to be like in any way?
“Commentary isn’t as easy as you would think. You don’t want to over talk, but you do want to impart as much information as you can. It is about striking that balance. If you watch snooker in the 80s on YouTube, the commentators hardly speak. They can go ten minutes without talking and you think they have gone for a drink. Commentary has changed since then of course. Having had a good crack at it, you can see how good the greats of commentary are. I’m happy to be a part of the broadcasting world now. I want to bring my experience to viewers and enhance their experience watching. Hopefully I will be in that job for many years to come.”
You’ve started up the onefourseven podcast alongside snooker MC Phil Seymour. How have you found it so far and how important do you think it is for players to utilise platforms like podcasts to enhance their followings?
“We’ve been completely blown away by the feedback. You put these things down on tape and then send them out into the ether. You don’t really know who is going to listen to them. The replies and the comments have been amazing. We are both quite big podcast listeners anyway. We subscribe and listen to the other snooker podcasts like WST, Talking Snooker and Snooker Scene. We enjoy all of the other content out there, but we have tried to make ours a very general chat. There is clearly snooker content, but we may not go with in depth chats about the rankings. We take questions from listeners and they could be about anything.
“I think it is important for the players to realise they all have their own platforms now. In general, digital media is underused and as a sport the players undersell themselves. There is a whole world out there where you can blow your own trumpet, you don’t need a PR person these days. The media is there for yourself. When I turned professional the only exposure you got was when a journalist wanted to speak to you. These days players can be their own journalists and do their own copy. Of course that makes the jobs of the traditional journalists even harder. It think we are seeing an explosion of interest in this sort of content. It is great to see the snooker podcasts in the Apple Charts.”