SHAUN MURPHY just came up short in the Betfred World Championship but his game is in the sort of shape to keep challenging for trophies in future seasons.
His 18-15 defeat to Stuart Bingham was hard to take but, typically, Murphy was gracious in defeat. He admitted, though, that it might hurt more once he got home and it fully sank in.
What changed the match was Sunday night’s interval. Murphy came out and played brilliant snooker in the first four frames of the evening, recording back-to-back centuries to pull away to lead 8-4.
But the retreat to the dressing room interrupted his momentum, as well as giving Bingham a chance to regroup. Suddenly, Murphy was spending long periods rooted to his chair as Bingham found his confidence.
Bingham won four of the five remaining frames and then the first four on Monday to take control of the final. Murphy was starting to miss. Having spent the whole tournament calm and relaxed, the pressure was now firmly on.
From 14-11 down going into the final session, Murphy played well and could have led 16-15 but missed a yellow in what turned into an epic 65 minute frame and Bingham found a second wind.
Murphy is a proud man – proud of being a professional snooker player and his achievements on the table. Having worked so hard with his coach, Chris Henry, and the team assembled around him it will hurt to fall at the last fence on the long race to the world title.
But he is also humble in defeat and a part of him will be happy for Bingham. Murphy knows how tough it is to become world champion. He still has plenty of time to win it again.
It’s hard to take positives in the immediate aftermath of defeat but he maintained his positive, attacking approach he had displayed through most of the season and proved that his natural game is his best game.
Murphy will himself reflect on where it went wrong but will also acknowledge just how ell Bingham played. This was a great final but there can, of course, only be one champion.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.