2021 WST Pro Series – Group A

Shaun Murphy topped Group A yesterday, with seven wins out of seven matches. Louis Heathcote came second.

Here is the report by WST:

Magic Murphy Progresses

Triple Crown winner Shaun Murphy eased through at the WST Pro Series, winning seven matches from seven to top Group A and progress to the second phase.

Despite the Magician’s dominance, it wasn’t until he earned a 2-1 win over 1994 Masters winner Alan McManus in the second last round of matches, that he secured his progression. Breaks of 95 and 59 were enough to see Murphy seal the deciding frame win. He followed that up with a 2-0 defeat of Shoot Out champion Michael Holt.

Joining Murphy in the second phase is Leicester’s world number 70 Louis Heathcote, who recorded a crucial 2-0 defeat of 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty in his last match to claim second place in the group. Heathcote fired in a break of 113 in the decisive frame, to leave himself with an unassailable advantage over nearest rival McManus. The Scot beat compatriot Fraser Patrick 2-1 in his final game to finish level with Heathcote on 15 points, but went out on frame difference.

Murphy said: “The secret of these formats, certainly for me, is that I don’t tend to look at the situation of how you stand throughout the day. I don’t think it does you any favours. I try 100% on every shot, in every match, each time I play. Looking at tables and working things out doesn’t really do anything for me. In fact, it just puts pressure on.

“I had three centuries today, so I’ve had a good day’s workout. I think we saw how coming to the Championship League prior the Masters sharpened John Higgins up and he put in a good performance at the Masters. That sort of thing can benefit me. Living in Ireland, with the travel restrictions means coming here isn’t as easy for me. I’m not quite as well practised as everyone else is, I’ll stay here now, try to stay out of everyone’s way and get ready for the German Masters.”

Both Heathcote and Murphy will return in March for the second phase of the £420,500 ranking event

Shaun Murphy 7 7 0 14 5 21
Louis Heathcote 7 5 2 12 7 15
Alan McManus 7 5 2 11 6 15
Xu Si 7 4 3 10 7 12
Michael Holt 7 3 4 8 10 9
Brian Ochoiski 7 2 5 6 11 6
Ken Doherty 7 2 5 6 11 6
Fraser Patrick 7 0 7 4 14 0

Fraser Patrick came last, failing to win a match all day. Most Scots have performed very poorly so far and I can only suppose that they find it hard to get proper practice and preparation.

It’s a good result for Louis Heathcote who is currently ranked 70th and need points to stay on tour this season. Louis has qualified for the German Masters next week, which obviously improves his chances as well.

It’s also a very good result for Brian Ochoiski, the French amateur who had celebrated his 22th birthday on Friday. He beat Fraser Patrick and former World Champion Ken Doherty, earning himself a £1000. France is not much of a snooker nation. Brian’s father, Stephane, who is a player and a coach, has been trying to promote the game in his country, but the French Federation remains very much focused carambole for now. The extremely poor quality of the French commentary on ES isn’t helping at all. I’m a Belgian native French speaker, but I will watch the snooker with English or Dutch commentary unless I have no other choice than the French channel, in which case I usually end up muting it. It’s that bad. Every good result by Brian is important when it comes to promote snooker in France. 

Shaun looked sharp and … slimmer. He’s been working on his fitness whilst helping charities as he explained to WST:

I Produce My Best At My Fittest – Murphy

2020 Masters - Shaun Murphy entrance enhancedWorld number seven Shaun Murphy says it is no coincidence that some of his finest moments have come whilst being in the best shape of his career.

Triple Crown winner Murphy has revealed that he will be undertaking a weight loss challenge with snooker MC Phil Seymour in order to raise funds for Jessie May Children’s Hospice and Kitchen For Everyone: York. They will be battling to see who can lose the most weight between now and the eve of the Betfred World Championship in April.

To donate to Shaun and Phil’s challenge click here.

A big motivating factor for Murphy, alongside raising money for charity, was to recapture his top form.

“I was at my best in physical terms around 2014 and 2015. I played some very good stuff around then. I don’t think that was a coincidence. If I can get near to that, then I will be very happy. The absolute worst case scenario is that, come the World Championship, I will be in the best physical condition of my life. One thing is for certain, it can’t hurt. There are no negatives to what Phil and I are trying to achieve,” said six-time ranking event winner Murphy.

“I think in some ways my 2015 Masters win eclipses my World Championship win. I want to get back the level of fitness I had then. If you look at the top players, one of the things they have in common with each other is being very fit and not carrying much excess body fat. They have endurance on their side. I don’t have that in common with them at the moment, but hopefully in a few months I will.

“I always had it in my head that come the start of 2021, I would make a concerted effort to do something about it. I was actually doing an Instagram Live with Stephen Hendry and someone asked if I could have done things differently to achieve more in my career. I think, as hard as it is to accept, I have been my own biggest problem and being overweight has contributed to me perhaps not quite achieving the same success that some others have had.”

Murphy admits that the lockdown period has been difficult for him in terms of keeping his weight down. The Englishman has also discussed the impact that both the lockdown and comments on social media have had on his mental health. Having previously taken a break from social media, Murphy now says he wants to tackle the issue head on.

“I was aware for a long time that the weight was creeping on. I really struggled in the first lockdown with the mental side of it, not being able to get out and practise and play on the tour. All of those things. When we did return, we were trapped in a hotel in Milton Keynes, I just really struggled with it. I didn’t go and see a doctor or anything, but I would say I was borderline suffering with depression really. I was very low.

“In my life, when I have felt low it has normally coincided with food. I was eating too much and eating the wrong things. When the tour started back, I realised that the waistcoat was a bit tighter than it used to be, so it was back into the wardrobe to find a different and bigger one. I realised this wasn’t going in the right direction. I have a history of not really dealing with it, there is quite a lot of trolling that goes on social media and people can be quite nasty about things. I went into my shell. I got my runners on at the start of lockdown and got out there and tried to do a few miles. When you are carrying too much excess weight it is either too difficult, too embarrassing, or a mixture of both. Then somebody Tweets you having seen you running around your town and it isn’t too pleasant, it doesn’t encourage you.

“Some of the comments on social media are just vile. I often wonder how we got into this body shaming culture, when did we start bullying each other about the way we look? I wanted to do something about it. I decided on New Years Day, that I would start highlighting people saying these things. I’m going to start calling it out when they are vicious and bullying you. If you aren’t mentally strong, these things can have a real knock on effect. We’ve seen some really high profile celebrities take their own life. It is awful really. I just decided I wanted to do something about it.”

Murphy’s decision to try and reduce his weight coincided with similar ambitions to Seymour. The pair decided to team up and embark on their Snooker’s Biggest Loser challenge. Murphy hopes that as well as providing a source of competitive motivation, they can raise some much needed funds for charities in the process. So far they have raised a £2,210.

“I’m delighted that Phil jumped at doing the challenge with me. That competitive element of a deadline and beating each other gets the juices flowing. It has already spurred me on to not have that piece of cake and make sure I am staying healthy. It is something I need, that thing to spur me on. The last time I lost considerable weight was because I had my wedding and wanted to look good in the wedding pictures. Without that goal or reason to do something about it, I find it hard. I’m really enthused and motivated. There is a lot of banter and it is out of a spirit of wanting each other to do well. We set a very conservative target of £1,000 and we hit the target in 36 hours. We can’t believe how generous people have been. We are made up that people have donated and hope that people continue to.

“The financial difficulties charities have had recently is another example of how far reaching this pandemic has been. It has stretched into every crevice of our lives. These charities are just not getting the funds they are used to and that they’ve had in the past. People are being furloughed, or are losing their jobs and they are turning to charities that haven’t got the funds they’ve had before. It is a vicious circle. Hopefully what we are doing can bring a bit of good.”

I have highlighted one sentence … because I want to answer it: “It was always that way Shaun, certainly for girls anyway. “.

Anyway, that’s a great way to tackle it. Well done Shaun and Phil.

This competition is all very short matches, but if  matches are close, a player could end up playind 21 frames in one day. That’s more than to win any two session final currently on the main tour. So, it IS a test of stamina.

One thought on “2021 WST Pro Series – Group A

  1. Yes, and the long day seemed a bit much for Doherty and McManus, who looked ragged at the end. Louis Heathcote has had a poor second season, under pressure to reach the top-64, but this result should help him achieve that. Xu Si might have beaten him in the first match, but it proved decisive. Xu’s result might help him also return via the 1-year list – it’s important to stay about his rivals, even by £500. Ultimately a 2-1 win somewhere will decide the fate of a few players at the end of the season.

    If Brian Ochoiski wants to play professional snooker, there are a few things he will have to sort out. The first frame of his match with Xu had to be seen to be believed,,,

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