Sensational Si Shocks Murphy
Si Jiahui, the lowest ranked player in the tournament at 80th in the world, scored a major Crucible upset by beating fourth seed Shaun Murphy 10-9 in the first round of the Cazoo World Championship.
At the end of a dramatic day in Sheffield, with two matches going to a deciding frame, China’s 20-year-old Si got the better of an exciting conclusion to knock out one of the pre-tournament favourites. Murphy was the best player on the planet on current form having won the Players Championship and Tour Championship within the past two months, but was narrowly outgunned in a fabulous match, despite making three centuries.
Si, based in Sheffield, had to win three qualifying matches just to make it to the Crucible and is now through to the last 16 of a ranking event for only the fourth time in his career. The highly rated youngster won the World Snooker Federation Open, the most prestigious event in amateur snooker, last year to regain a place on the pro circuit and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals of the European Masters earlier this season.
The result may feel particularly sweet for Si, as he beat Murphy 6-5 when they first met at the 2021 UK Championship while competing as an amateur, after which Murphy claimed that amateurs should not be allowed to take part in professional tournaments. This time, 2005 Crucible king Murphy was completely magnanimous in defeat as he heaped praise on his opponent and offered the view that Si will become the first World Champion from China.
Si’s next step towards that dream will be a best-of-25 contest with Robert Milkins which will start on Saturday.
Si led 5-4 going into tonight’s concluding session and soon extended that advantage with a break of 120. Murphy had first chance in frame 11 but missed the pink to a centre pocket on 30 and his opponent capitalised with 93. Murphy hit back with 102 and 66 to close to 7-6 at the interval.
A run of 86 gave Si frame 14 and he dominated the next for 9-6. At 48-0 down in frame 16, Si missed a tricky red to centre, allowing Murphy to pull one back. The next came down to the last two reds, and a safety error from Si handed Murphy the chance to close to 9-8. A run of 120 set up the decider.
A superb long red from Si initiated a run of 56, before Murphy clawed his way back with 28, and the match came down to the final red. Si laid a tough snooker, and Murphy missed the red three times, and the third attempt proved his last shot as Si cleared for victory.
“I didn’t really play to win, I just wanted to learn from him,” said Si. “I would not be too dissatisfied with myself even if I’d lost tonight because I did perform well and I was so happy out there. Shaun has had a brilliant season so I never thought I could have done this.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the match. The whole arena applauded every time I got a long pot, and they did the same for my good safeties. That’s the best part I’ve enjoyed so far and I was able to play without any pressure. If I can really perform I can compete with any player. I’m playing with a great mindset because I’m not bothered about winning or losing. There will be no regrets if I can carry on with my own game.”
Murphy said: “I really enjoyed it, it was exciting. I just came out on the wrong end. I have had many great nights at the Crucible and I will have more, but tonight was Si Jiahui’s night. He was fabulous from start to finish. I think he will be the first Chinese World Champion – maybe not this time, but I believe he will be the first. I see things in him that some of the other players don’t have. He’s got a bit of swagger, he’s very talented, plays right and left handed, gets on with it and always tries to attack. I threw everything at him, I tried my absolute best and I still lost.
“This has been possibly my best season, I won’t let this result ruin it. I will enjoy being here for the rest of this tournament in my BBC role and I’m already looking forward to playing here again next season. ”
Meanwhile, Mark Allen established a 5-3 lead over Stuart Bingham in the opening session of their second round clash. Allen has been the player of the season so far, having picked up silverware at the Northern Ireland Open, UK Championship and World Grand Prix. The Antrim cueman scored a 10-5 win over Chinese debutant Fan Zhengyi in round one.
Other than a run to the Masters semi-finals in January, 2015 World Champion Bingham has had a relatively quiet season. He earned his place in the second round with a 10-4 defeat of David Gilbert.
Allen started fast, firing breaks of 65, 91 and 85 to storm into an early 3-0 lead. Bingham showed his class and responded with a stunning run of 134 to head into the interval trailing 3-1.
Play got back underway with a 32-minute frame, which eventually went the way of Bingham on the black. The next two were shared, before a break of 72 saw Allen end with his overnight advantage. The second of three sessions will be played on Friday afternoon from 2:30pm.