2022 European Masters(2) – Day 2

This is WST report on what happened yesterday in Fürth:

Murphy Grateful Following Win

Shaun Murphy admitted he was grateful to be competing without pain after his 5-3 win over Zhang Anda at the BetVictor European Masters in Fürth.

Last season Murphy was plagued by back and neck injuries. However, this term the Magician has been working hard on exercises to alleviate the pain. He admits it is a problem which will never go away, but says he is savouring each moment he is able to compete.

The 2005 World Champion has enjoyed a solid start to the present campaign. He made it to the second phase of the recent BetVictor Championship League and defeated Dean Young 5-3 in qualifying for this week’s tournament.

Murphy composed a break of 53 on his way to taking the opener this morning. Zhang restored parity, but it was Murphy who claimed the following two frames to head into the mid-session 3-1 ahead.

When play resumed, Zhang reduced his arrears to a single frame thanks to a break of 62. The following frame saw Murphy deposit ten reds with blacks and left the crowd hoping for a maximum. However, he fell out of position to end his run on 80.

Trailing 4-2, Zhang composed a stunning contribution of 143 to claw back within a frame. Murphy wasn’t to be denied though and he wrapped up the win in the following frame. Next up he faces Chris Wakelin in the last 32.

The neck and back problem is something I will always have to live with, but I am managing it the best I can and I’m keeping on top of it,” said Murphy, who recently celebrated his 40th birthday.

“One funny night’s sleep or cricking my neck on a plane and it could all come crashing down. As I enter my 40th year, I am learning to be grateful for these opportunities.”

Murphy also spoke about close friend and former WST director Brandon Parker, who sadly passed away in 2020. Parker spearheaded the professional tour’s move to stage major snooker events in Germany.

He said: “Brandon, along with Thomas Cesal and Dragonstars, were the promotors of many events in Germany, which saw the explosion of snooker here in the last decade. We used to hold the Paul Hunter Classic here, which was a phenomenal event. We got together in a festival style to remember Paul during that tournament. We had some great years at this venue, but it isn’t the same without Brandon. I see his ghost everywhere I go here, I am used to seeing him in the corridors working very hard. I desperately miss Brandon, but it is nice to be back somewhere that he loved so much.

World number eight Kyren Wilson clinched his last 32 spot with a 5-1 demolition of China’s Lyu Haotian.

Kettering cueman Wilson captured the second of his four ranking titles to date here back in 2018, when he won the final ranking edition of the Paul Hunter Classic. He beat friend and former practice partner Peter Ebdon in the final.

However, 2020 World Championship runner-up Wilson hasn’t lifted ranking silverware in almost two years and will be keen to end that drought soon. He composed breaks of 60, 72 and 111 during this evening’s victory. Next up he faces former European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson

Judd Trump booked his place in the last 32 with a 5-3 win over Ashley Hugill, while 24-time ranking event winner Mark Williams emerged a 5-2 victor against Sanderson Lam.

Welshman Jackson Page scored an impressive 5-1 defeat of China’s Yuan Sijun, who defeated Mark Selby yesterday. Barry Hawkins progressed with a 5-2 win against Aaron Hill.

As usual,  a lot of matches are not even mentioned in this report. You will find all the detailed results on snooker.org.

Andrew Higginson, who now plays as an amateur beat Oliver Lines by 5-1, and will meet Judd Trump next. Andrew is far too good to be off the tour, and, with the pressure of the rankings off, he seems to have rediscovered some form.

Despite scoring four breaks over 50, Yan Bingtao needed all 9 frames to get the better of rookie Dylan Emery. Dylan is certainly one to watch this season. Like many young players, he has an excellent long potting, but he has a good tactical nous as well.

Jack Lisowski beat Matthew Stevens by 5-2 in an entertaining match. Dominic Dale won the last three frame of his match against Jimmy White to beat him by 5-3. JImmy still has it, but he can’t sustain it over a whole match. I’m surprised those two matches aren’t even mentioned TBH.

Daniel Wells beat Michael Judge by 5-3 in a very slow going match. They started in the morning session and were pulled off at 4-3 because the afternoon session was about to start. They finished in the evening, but still before Jamie Jones and Anthony Hamilton. Those two went to a deciding frame. Jamie Jones prevailed. Hamilton scored a break over 50 in every of the four frames he won.

I thought that the crowd around the main table was very sparse, which surprises me because the snooker events in Fürth were alway very well attended. That said, the last time I was there the promoters had put a ticket system into place such that you needed a VIP ticket to access the main table. The VIP ticket was considerably more expensive than the normal ticket and, that time too, the main table was poorly attended. With many other matches available, most fans were not willing to pay the additional price. I’m not sure if this is the case again this time, but if it is, it’s not great because it really doesn’t look good on television.

Now regarding Shaun Murphy, who had a rather torrid time last season, he has opened up about the issues and problems he had to go through and how he intents to get back to his best.

I went under knife as I was sick of being fat-shamed

Shaun Murphy on his addiction to eating — and why shedding four stone can help bring the good times back

Thin line: Murphy at the Crucible in April

SNOOKER star Shaun Murphy has revealed he’s had gastric sleeve surgery to get his faltering career back on track.

The 2005 world champion admitted the heartache of being ‘fat-shamed’ on social media contributed to his decision, as did the breakdown of his marriage last year and prolonged injury problems. Murphy, now 40, wants to turn things around — on and off the table.

‘I’ve had a lot of things going on in my life which contributed to the worst season of my career last season,’ Murphy tells Sportsmail. ‘It’s been incredibly tough and one thing I’ve always struggled with is my weight.

‘It was a big decision to go under the knife, but I accepted that I was unable to sort my weight out. I had surgery in May and so far I’ve lost about four stone.

Comeback: Murphy is eager to get back to winning ways after his life changing surgery

My weight has always fluctuated, but it comes down to discipline and I needed to do something about it to give me the best possible chance of being successful in the final third of my career.

This last year has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest, of my life. Me and my wife Elaine separated, which has been hard because we have two children. I started eating a lot more. Like alcohol, it’s an addiction but it is not spoken about as much.

Me and Elaine are tentatively trying for a reconciliation, but the breakdown of our marriage and my weight and injury problems obviously made playing snooker really tough. It was secondary to everything else.

But I decided to do something about it because I’m sick of being fat-shamed on social media and not feeling good about myself. At this year’s World Championship I didn’t fit into my suit properly and didn’t feel good. I’m by no means the finished article yet, but I’m heading in the right direction. This is a new start for me at 40, I just want to enjoy my snooker and feel good about myself.’

Big time: Murphy reached the World Championship final last year but lost out to Mark Selby

A sleeve gastrectomy is where a large part of the stomach is removed, meaning you cannot eat as much and become full quicker.

The surgery is irreversible, so it was a huge decision,’ admits Murphy. ‘I get that as a high-profile sportsman you expect stick on social media, but the personal attacks are really cruel.

I’ve had 80 per cent of my stomach removed so now I can eat very little. It’s pretty much impossible for me to ever put weight back on again. I used to go to Weight Watchers and really enjoyed it and I’ve lost weight throughout my career — it’s yo-yoed when I’ve dieted and got into exercise. 

‘But I was listening to Steve Davis in the commentary box at this year’s World Championship and something struck a chord with me. He wasn’t aiming his comment at me, but he said it was no secret that the fitter players, those that had looked after themselves, were dominating.

New phase: Murphy playing golf in the ProAm at Celtic Manor earlier this month

You only have to look at Ronnie O’Sullivan. He is the player who has looked after himself the most and he’s just won a seventh world title at 46. He’s getting better with age. And a lot of the other tournament winners like Neil Robertson and Judd Trump are fit. John Higgins has lost weight by spinning and I know a lot of professionals have Peloton bikes so they can stay fit.

Murphy shot to fame in 2005 when, as a 150-1 outsider, he won the World Championship at the Crucible. But his last ranking win was the Welsh Open before the pandemic. Now, following surgery, he wants silverware again.

I’ve pretty much won something every year, but last season was poor,’ reflects Murphy. ‘I want to win more. I’ve been in four world finals and only won one, I’d love to win it again.

I know there’s nothing the other lads can do that I can’t, but my health has let me down. I’ve still got little goals, like getting to world No 1, which I’ve never achieved. But I’ve grown up in a generation of the Class of ’92 — O’Sullivan, Higgins and Mark Williams — and lost to great players like Mark Selby and Robertson in big finals. The standard is so high, but there’s life in me yet!

Keep it up Shaun and ignore the trolls.