SHAUN MURPHY, displaying the same positive attitude allied with a formidable potting game that won him the World Championship nearly a decade ago, beat Martin Gould 4-2 to capture the Bulgarian Open in Sofia on Sunday.
From the off on the final day, Murphy cued like a dream. He swept aside Jimmy White 4-0, beat world champion Mark Selby 4-2 and was particularly impressive in recording a 4-0 win over Michael White in the semi-finals.
During the tournament he compiled three century breaks and 20 half centuries, a very impressive strike rate in the 28 frames he won.
Murphy always was a sight to behold when he strode round the table, full of self-confidence and attacking the balls. His 2005 Crucible triumph was marked by some outlandish long potting and, of course, a cool head when the pressure came on.
He’s won tournaments since, notably the UK Championship in 2008, but perhaps not as many as he would have liked. Indeed, unusually for him he let his frustration at getting close in tournaments and not sealing the deal show after his defeat to Mark Selby in the Masters semi-finals last season.
Very soon afterwards, Murphy won the European Tour event in Gdynia. He then captured the World Open title in China and the clouds of despair well and truly parted.
Murphy enjoys being a snooker professional and what comes with it. He likes being part of the game. Losing hurts but he seems to have found a way to manage his disappointments, aside from after that Selby defeat.
There have, as for any player, been performances which must have left him in pieces. His game seemed to completely go against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible last season when he lost their quarter-final 13-3.
But in any season, in any career, there will be good days and bad. Sunday was a good one. It may have been an advantage to play every match from the last 16 onwards on the TV table but this was the right commercial decision each time.
Murphy was asked in his post-match interview about a fan he spent some time with on Saturday. This is an 18 year-old snooker enthusiast with muscular dystrophy. He is a Murphy supporter and Shaun obliged by paying him a visit.
This was a nice and genuine thing to do, as was Mark Selby’s decision to go into the arena to watch the final, sign autographs and pose for pictures.
It's to snooker's credit that many players remain down to earth and will take the time to give back to the fans. Murphy and Selby certainly excel at this.
As for Bulgaria, the final day, which clashed with the country’s general election, saw large and enthusiastic crowds. The first snooker club wasn’t opened in Bulgaria until 2007, by Oleg Velinov (pictured right of Murphy), who now promotes the tournament.
One leading professional who ventured out to Bulgaria back then, understanding the potential importance of a vast new market for the game, was Shaun Murphy.
If he can retain the focus, confident approach and high standard of play he produced in Sofia then he will need to clear space on the mantelpiece for more trophies this season.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.