SHAUN MURPHY insists he will be ready to take on world champion Mark Selby in Sunday’s Masters opener – despite pulling out of this week’s Championship League with illness.
Former world champion Murphy has targeted winning the prestigious invitation event this season but saw his preparations hampered after picking up a chest infection.
That forced Murphy to cancel his planned build-up at Crondon Park in Essex, with Mark King stepping in to deputise at short notice.
But though there were only low-key New Year celebrations Murphy, 32, remains confident he can mount a challenge for the sole domestic ‘Major’ to elude him so far in his career.
Last year represented a successful 12 months for Murphy with a World Open win and European Tour victories in Germany, Poland and Bulgaria.
And the world No11 said: “I was properly ill, it’s not often if ever I have not been able to play through not being well. I can’t remember another occasion, but I couldn’t risk it dragging on to the Masters.
“It was a bad chest infection, the doctor seemed to be saying it was viral gone bacterial or something, but hopefully I am on the mend now.
“I’ll certainly be ready to face Mark, even if I am not absolutely feeling 100 per cent, and I was even off my food which for me tells me something isn’t right.
“I always give it everything out there, this is a tournament I really want to win and it looks as if it should be a good match against Mark.”
At times in the past 12 months Murphy, after a spell when lost semi-finals were ruining his CV, seemed to have regained the buccaneering swagger that took him to the world title a decade ago.
But he will have his hands full against new father Selby, who has not seen things go all his own way after his Crucible triumph.
The Leicester Jester did win the Riga Open and reach the semi-finals in Shanghai, but for the most part Selby has failed to catch fire this term and will be looking to change that in London.