Before this year’s Betfred World Championship Shaun Murphy spoke to Inside Snooker about his 2005 win, and fears he had become “a bottler” before a recent strong revival and winning the Masters.
Murphy is battling it out in the semi-finals over four sessions with Barry Hawkins,
IS: HOW DO YOU REMEMBER 2005?
SM: “Since winning the Masters in January I have watched the footage of my Crucible win more, and it has become more special. Maybe that was winning another big one again, I don’t know.
“Someone at TWI kindly put together a little montage of my world, UK and Masters wins –and looking back at 2005 it almost seems like it is someone else.
“I was 22, I was going through some things away from the table with my family, my coach Steve Prest who is no longer with us…
“It seems very distant for something that was just 10 years ago.
WHAT CAN YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE?
“I had played at the Crucible twice before but not won a match, and was having before the tournament the worst season of my life apart from one semi-final at the British Open.
“I had had fallouts with Steve, we were so frustrated, I couldn’t seem to get anywhere or get a result, so much so that before the qualifiers I had decided to go and get a job.
“I had the interview for selling cars in Sheffield, got offered the job, and only friends and family persuaded me to play in the qualifiers, as I had already paid the £700 entry fee.
“In the end I played purely not to waste the £700.”
A LOT WAS SAID ABOUT YOUR ATTACKING STYLE OF PLAY
“I had been playing that all-or-nothing style all season, but all the ones that were going in at the Crucible were nothings for most of the season.
“And a year’s worth of aggression seemed to come out at The Crucible where it all came together.
“I had no idea of loss and mental battle scars. I went for plenty of shots which were the wrong shots…but they went in, so I wasn’t going to argue.
ANY MOMENTS THAT STOOD OUT?
“There were several huge moments. Beating John Higgins was one, I had never beaten him before, though I had practised with him and learned off him.
“He had slapped me a few times and he was so frustrated at times I had him in so much trouble he almost put his cue through the floor. I took that as a feather in my cap I had done that to him.
“Playing Steve Davis in the next round was a massive privilege, he had been my idol and I had watched him there in 1982 as a nine-year-old so to play him at the Crucible was phenomenal.
“And playing Ebdon in the semi-final where I was too nervous shaking to play in the first session but came through to win 17-12. And I remember the noise as I was clearing up to win.
“I knocked in a yellow with the frame won and the roar for the lad who was living locally was incredible.
DID YOU REALISE THINK ABOUT ANY WIDER SIGNIFICANCE?
“I didn’t really realise the significance of being a qualifier and winning it as a new young player at the time, only since.
“Snooker needs young winners, and we still now need those winners to see the benefit in the rankings quicker, though that is starting to happen.
HOW DID IT CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
“Away from snooker you realised the power of TV and how many people watch snooker. I think nearly 8million watched that match live, over half of everyone watching TV that night.
“You pulled into a petrol station and people recognised you as the new kid, or in the shops, or in restaurants, or on nights out,and it was weird.
“It meant I was No2 seed at all tournaments the following season, but I was still outside the top 16 and in some ways I didn’t feel because of that that I had yet earned that seeding.
“There were a lot of players ahead of me, and I wasn’t sure I was due the No2 seeding even as world champion.
“One player definitely said it was over and above what I deserved, and wasn’t winning the world title and all the money enough – and I vividly remember that.
THERE WERE SOME DIFFICULT YEARS UNTIL YOUR RECENT REVIVAL
“After the Masters last year as was well documented I was seriously thinking about going away from snooker, and never would have thought I would win it 12 months later.
“If you had asked me in January 2014 could I win that or another really big title again I would have said no, and it wouldn’t have been flannel, I would have meant it.
“I didn’t think I had it in me any more to win titles of that significance, I thought I was a bottler. I had been through lots of semi-final defeats.
“And in trying to understand why I kept losing quarter-finals and semi-finals and finals I had to look myself in the mirror and ask ‘Are you now a bottler?’ There was a lot of soul-searching.
“For a long time I thought I was. But it was only through working with Chris Henry and Brandon I realised I wasn’t, and that even in the dark years I had got to finals of the worlds, the UK and the Masters.
COMING TO CRUCIBLE THIS YEAR
“I came in to the tournament this year as one of the players who legitimately could win it, that hasn’t been the case for me in recent years.
“After my sweet spot for a few years I have been a nearly man, lost some good matches and lost heavily to O’Sullivan last year.
“But I feel under less pressure this year having won the Triple Crown, I have less to prove, and am ready, prepared and hoping to do some damage.
“That is not to say I am not hungry to win more, trust me I am – it’s just I am confident and secure in what I have already achieved.
“Chris tells me success is predictable. I always thought it was just something that happened to the chosen few or lucky ones, but if you do the right things you get success.
“Eventually it pays off, and for me it paid off at the Masters.”
ONE SPECIAL MEMORY FROM 2005
“There was one particular practice routine I did with Steve, putting all the reds across the line from the middle pocket to the middle pocket, and pot them all without missing from the baulk line.
“The two end ones were the most difficult. I only did it once, and it was before the last session of the world final.
“When the last one went in one, Steve looked at me and said ‘You can’t be any more ready than that’.”
HOW WAS IT WINNING WORLD TITLE SO YOUNG ?
“I wish in some ways I had won the world title at a different stage in my career, maybe like Mark Selby last year, because you would have appreciated it more.
“When I won it was my first professional tournament win, and there was so much about it and what it meant it didn’t really sink in.
“I would love to have that chance again. I don’t really remember the presentation, I don’t remember potting those balls in the final.
“Mark had won plenty of other tournaments maybe at the right time in his career before he won the world title.
“I think I did it the wrong way round, or backwards. You win the world title, the biggest one you can win, at 22. Where do you go from there? The only way is down unless you win it again, and down is where I went.
“It was a bit back to front. Where did Ding go from last season and five ranking titles? Where did David Moyes go at Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson?
“It was the best moment in my career for almost 10 years, but I would say the Masters win superseded it. That was special after the dark times.
“But the worst moment was losing the world title in 2006, I hated having it taken off me.”
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos