World Championships: Return to scene of final anguish welcomed by ambitious Shaun Murphy
The 2005 world champion was red-hot favourite to mark the 10th anniversary of his Crucible triumph when he faced self-confessed journeyman Stuart Bingham in the final.
But the 39-year-old Essex potter stunned world No 3 Murphy, winning 18-15.
Murphy, back in Sheffield for Saturday’s start of the World Championship, admits the pain of losing only kicked-in later that summer.
“Losing in a final, I am not sure you ever ‘get over it’,” Murphy told The Yorkshire Post yesterday. “I think you change your perspective on it, look back in a different way. The true disappointment of last year didn’t hit me until weeks after.
“In the days after I was disappointed, got over it a bit, we had the awards dinner and everyone was jovial and saying ‘haven’t you had a great year, won the Masters, German Masters runner-up…’
“It wasn’t until a few weeks later the fact that I had lost really kicked in.
“I didn’t leave the house for weeks, I went into a very dark place.
“I didn’t like it. You realise that you don’t play for second place, none of us just want to “do well”. I want to win, and to get so close –just three frames short – was very difficult to take. I have learnt to live with it.
“And when you look at Stuart’s results last year, he beat Robbie Williams, Graeme Dott, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, and myself.
“He deserved the trophy, it was just an unbelievable run. I was the favourite going into the final, the only people who felt otherwise were Stuart’s family and his team. But he fully deserved it, he was the better man over the two days.”
Murphy opens up today against Scotsman Anthony McGill – a repeat of last year’s quarter-final game. It is a day the 33-year-old, now based in Melton Mowbray, has been counting down the weeks to.
“Last year was a bit of a sour end for me, coming so close to my second title,” he said.
“I have been looking forward to coming back ever since.
“This is the tournament above all others that everyone gets their creative juices flowing for.
“As soon as the Masters finishes (in January), everyone has one eye on Sheffield.”
Murphy, of course, enjoys home support in South Yorkshire, having lived in nearby Rotherham when he won his world title in 2005.
A decade later and he still gets mistaken as a Yorkshireman.
“As a 22-year-old I came here, lived here for three or four years, and it’s amazing how many people think I am Rotherham, born and bred,” he smiled. “Which of course, I am not. When you have been taken into the heart of (Yorkshire) people, you are in there for ever.
“I am always very thankful of the support I get here, people who I don’t know, but come to support me every year. Hopefully, I can put on a good show for them.”
McGill, 25, excelled at the Crucible 12 months ago, beating Stephen Maguire and defending champion Mark Selby.
He has struggled for form this season, but Murphy is refusing to take his opponent lightly.
“My first-round game is a re-run of last year’s quarter-final.” said Murphy. “I don’t think Anthony has had the best of seasons since doing so well here.
“That’s often the case. You are on the crest of a wave, World Championship quarter-finalist, and being talked about as a first-time winner.
“Then it’s about finding the adrenaline for the rest of the year.
“But all that means absolutely nothing. He’s here again, played well before here, and he’s a massive danger.
“There are no easy matches, 28 of the world’s top 32 are here, that could be a record. Every single match could be a final of an event somewhere in the world.
“The fans are going to get the best tournament they have ever seen. I just hope I am in it long enough to have a laugh with them along the way.”
Bingham opens up his defence against Ali Carter this morning, in an all-Essex clash.
No first-time winner has ever retained the crown 12 months later, a feat known as the Crucible curse, not that Bingham is perturbed at having his chances written off so early.
“People said that last year and I won it,” he said.
“It’s an honour to have the ‘Crucible curse’ tagged on me this year. A lot of people haven’t experienced what I’ve had in the last year, so to have that chance to break the curse is going to be great.”
Also today, Peter Ebdon plays Marco Fu, while Maguire tackles Alan McManus.