SHAUN MURPHY and Mark Selby will set their friendship aside as they battle for glory in the Kreativ Dental German Masters final at the Tempodrom in Berlin on Sunday.
They’ve known each other since boyhood, playing in the then thriving UK junior scene and dreaming of one day competing in TV tournaments against the best.
Now, they’re among the best. They are each members of snooker’s exclusive triple crown club and have the potential to win many more titles between them in the coming years.
Murphy’s passage to the final was not unexpected given his recent Masters triumph but also not without incident. In three consecutive matches he has lost four frames in succession but the way he finished off against Liang Wenbo in their semi-final on Saturday demonstrated a mental strength which underlines his new approach to the game.
Selby arrived in Berlin just two days after completing an eight ball pool tournament in China but has shrugged off tiredness and jetlag and made it through to the final. He was too strong for Stephen Maguire last night, beating him 6-2 in their semi-final.
I saw Selby in the hotel about 45 minutes before that contest and you would not have known he was off to play a big match. He couldn’t have been more relaxed and this of course is his great strength: to genuinely enjoy playing and keep pressure at bay.
Shaun and Mark are a credit to the sport. They have supported tournaments played far and wide around the globe, including here in Germany, and you can send them into a room with sponsors, media, fans or visiting dignitaries without fear of it back-firing. In many ways they have retained that boyish enthusiasm for snooker formed out of weekend tournaments played long before ranking points or making a living was even a consideration.
They are also popular with the German supporters, who will pack the Tempodrom for today’s best of 17 frame final hoping for a close, exciting affair. It would be fitting if this excellent event ended with a top class finale.
Yet again, the flat draw system has produced a final featuring two of snooker’s top stars, who have proved once more why they are the best in the business.
Whoever wins and whoever loses there will be congratulatory/commiserating drinks together afterwards, when friendship will be restored. In between, it’s the battle in Berlin.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.