Murphy’s Law: Shaun lifts the trophy
Shaun Murphy crushed Neil Robertson 10-2 in the final of the Dafabet Masters to complete the Triple Crown of snooker’s three biggest titles.
In the most one-sided Masters final since Steve Davis beat Mike Hallett 9-0 in 1988, Murphy completely outplayed his opponent with a superb display at Alexandra Palace. He made two centuries and four more breaks over 50, and won the crucial tight frames which kept his opponent grounded.
Robertson had played some of the best snooker of his career in 6-1 wins over Ali Carter and Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach the final, but could not reproduce that today, struggling with every department of his game.
Manchester-based Murphy took the top prize of £200,000, but to join a group of just ten players to have won all three of snooker’s biggest titles will mean much more to the 32-year-old. The 2005 World and 2008 UK Champion now joins Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths, Alex Higgins, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby in that elite club.
It’s a remarkable turn-around for Murphy, who sank to one of the lowest points of his career a year ago when he lost 6-1 to Mark Selby in the Masters semi-finals. Without a title of any sort in two and a half years, he knew he was in danger of failing to fulfil his potential. It had been nine years since he burst on to the scene by winning the World Championship at the age of 22, the most dazzling young talent since Ronnie O’Sullivan. But he had since added just one other BBC-televised title – the 2008 UK – and was seen by many as an under-achiever. Murphy even suggested he was considering a career away from snooker – albeit in the haze of disappointment following that Selby defeat.
But 2014 turned out to be one of the best years of his career as he won three European Tour events as well as the Haikou World Open, and also became the first player ever to make three 147s in a calendar year. The turn-around is a result of countless hours of hard work on the practice table, particularly on his break-building; he made five centuries and 11 more breaks over 50 in the 28 frames he won this week. World number 11 Murphy has also found contentment away from the table and was watched live for the first time this week by fiancée Elaine and his mother.
World number one Robertson missed out on his second Masters title, having beaten Murphy in the 2012 final. The Australian also lost to Selby here in the 2013 final.
Murphy led 6-2 after the first session, and won a vital 34-minute opening frame tonight to extend his lead. Robertson made a break of 51 and had several chances to seal the frame, but couldn’t take one and it came down to the last two balls. A safety error from Robertson, leaving the pink close to a baulk corner, allowed Murphy to pot pink and black.
From that moment a Robertson fight-back never looked likely, indeed he scored just 20 points in the remainder of the match. Murphy made a 127 in frame ten, dominated the 11th for 9-2 and clinched the title in the next with a calm run of 60.
“It hasn’t hit me yet at all, it will take days, weeks and months for what I have achieved to sink in,” said Murphy. “The media has made up the idea of the Triple Crown and it really does affect the players who have won two out of the three. I won my first one and wanted more, then I got my second and I’ve had to wait seven years for the third. It’s been a long time coming, there has been a lot of hard work and I’m absolutely blown away.
“At 5-0 I was only half way, and Neil has given me some thumpings over the years so I knew he was more than capable of coming back. The first frame tonight was important because it went on for a while and there was a bit of tension. Tactically I have improved – two or three years ago I could never have won that frame against Neil.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to pot the last few balls. To win this playing good snooker is very pleasing. This time 12 months ago I talked about giving up snooker and going off to do something else. I stuck at it and I’ve lived in the snooker club since, and it has finally paid off. There are plenty more trophies out there to be won.”
Robertson said: “In the first couple of frames I had chances and it should at least have been 1-1. The match just seemed an uphill struggle from there. He was playing very well and I wasn’t at the same level as I was against Carter and O’Sullivan. I was bound to come down after those two matches because I had to play so well to win them. The first session finished 6-2 when it could have been 4-4, then I could have won the first frame tonight. Shaun played a fantastic match, but I still had the chances to be well in it.
“My cue ball control today wasn’t anywhere near as good as it had been in previous matches. I’m really disappointed to have played like that in a big final but sometimes you have to take it on the chin and move on to the next one.
“It’s very fitting that a player as good as Shaun has won all three majors. I did it, then Mark Selby did it, and now we are all trying to win multiple Triple Crown events. A defeat like this motivates me to practice more.”