Shaun Murphy, the best player in the world on current form, won his second title within five weeks as he came from 4-0 down to beat Kyren Wilson 10-7 in the final of the Duelbits Tour Championship.
After a slow start, Murphy was by far the better player in a superb final in Hull which featured four centuries and ten more breaks over 50. He captured the silverware for the first time at what some players consider the biggest tournament outside the Triple Crown, and is rewarded with a cheque for £150,000.
Murphy won the Duelbits Players Championship in February and, having landed the World Grand Prix in 2016, he joins Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson as the only players to have lifted all three trophies in this series. This is only the second time in his career that he has won two ranking titles in the same season, having done so in 2019/20. Overall, the 40-year-old has now won 11 ranking titles, which puts him ahead of Jimmy White on the all-time list.
A year ago, Murphy was in a dark place, suffering from a chronic neck injury, a loss of form and a slide down the world rankings. He took the drastic option of gastric sleeve surgery last summer, and losing weight inspired a transformation in his performances on the baize. A purple patch of potting commenced at February’s Welsh Open where he made a 147 and reached the final, and despite defeat to Robert Milkins that day, he has since gone on to win two tournaments which are reserved for the elite players on the one-year ranking list.
Up to fourth in the official rankings, he now heads to the Crucible brimming with confidence and must be considered among the favourites for the Cazoo World Championship title which he has landed just once before, 18 years ago.
Victory would have given Wilson the biggest title of his career and first in a televised ranking event in the UK. The Kettering ace made six centuries during his semi-final against Ding Junhui and started today at the same blistering pace as he went 4-0 ahead, but the 31-year-old was outplayed for the remainder of the contest. He banks £60,000 as runner-up and remains seventh in the rankings.
After sharing the first session 4-4, Wilson took the opening frame tonight with a break of 59, before Murphy responded with a 131. A run of 52 helped Wilson edge 6-5 ahead, and he had a chance to double his lead in frame 12, but Murphy stole it on the final black to square the tie again.
Frame 13 also came down to the colours and Murphy sealed it with a cracking long pot on the final brown to lead for the first time at 7-6. A superb 115 kept his momentum going, then Wilson showed spirit to pulled one back with an excellent run of 60. In frame 16, Murphy fired in a trademark long red to start a break of 95 which brought him to the brink at 9-7.
Wilson had first chance in frame 17 but made only 13. Murphy replied with 39 before running out of position, but then got the better of a safety exchange, forcing his opponent into a risky long red which missed its target. The Magician added 22 which proved enough.
“I am blown away, and delighted to come here off the back of the performance at the Players Championship and to win again,” said Dublin-based Murphy, who was almost beaten in the semi-finals on Saturday night but edged out Mark Selby 10-9. “The second half of the first session was pivotal, to come from 4-0 down to 4-4 gave me a massive foothold in the match.
“Around 6-6 or 7-6, I challenged myself to find another gear. The greats I grew up watching, like Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, always found something extra when they needed it.
“I have been working very hard on my game, but also myself as a person. There has been a lot of soul searching and honest conversations. I had to work on things that were painful. But it has paid off. I knew my game was good months ago, and that has taken some time to prove.
“There is one event left in the season now and I’d pay a lot of money to keep this form for another couple of weeks. If I can take this patience and composure to the Crucible I will be a handful for anyone.”
Wilson said: “There are two frames which stick out. I felt I was unlucky not to go 5-3 up as I had Shaun in all sorts of trouble (in a snooker on the last red in frame eight) but he made an incredible escape and put me in trouble. I was disappointed not to be ahead at the end of the first session. And tonight I missed a tricky red when I had a chance to go 7-5 up. Those are big frames and you need to take those chances against someone of Shaun’s class. It has been a tough time recently for my family so it has been great to have them up here with me this week. I had no practice coming into this event so it was a huge bonus to get to the final. Look out for me at the Crucible when I have some prep behind me.”
Article by WST.