SHAUN Murphy continued his fine recent form with a 4-2 victory over world No1 Neil Robertson in the tie of the first round at the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals.
The 31-year-old former world champion was at a low ebb following a 6-1 Masters semi-final defeat to Mark Selby in January, after a prolonged spell in the doldrums.
But world No7 Murphy took revenge over Selby by beating him 10-6 to win his first ranking event for three years at the Haikou World Open earlier in March.
And at the Preston Guildhall on Tuesday night in the Wyldecrest Parks-sponsored tournament Murphy backed that up by beating Australian Robertson, who had held the whip hand in their encounters for several years.
Murphy said: “It is a massive thing to get one over on the world No1. My record against Neil is poor in recent times, when at one time we both beat each other up.
“He has dominated me, and I came in second favourite. I knew it would be tough and it was, but I am very happy to be through.
“People tell you form is temporary and class is permanent in the dark times, but when it is you that is happening to it is hard to retain that perspective on things.
“It was very difficult for a couple of years there, I never meant to leave snooker with what I said at the Masters about doing something else, I really meant as well as snooker.
“But things have all changed since January, and I am starting to play well at a good time with still three prizes left including the biggest one. Long may it continue.
“I think back where I practise they probably had the Manchester United match on rather than watching me this evening, but I will be back there tomorrow.”
World No6 Judd Trump was handed a wake-up call by Chinese amateur Ju Reti in the first frame of their last-32 match, as the 31-year-old stole into an early lead.
Ju, who grew up a farmer in the remote Xinjiang region bordering India and Russia and was on his first trip to the United Kingdom, owed his presence in the draw to success in an Asian Tour tournament, where he beat Michael Holt 4-1 in the final.
But Trump, 24, quickly settled and ultimately ran out a convincing 4-1 winner. He will now take on Murphy for a place in the quarter-finals.
Trump said: “Ju has been practising at the same place as me, and really putting the work in but with him being on the next table I could see his safety might let him down so wasn’t too worried when he got off to a flier.
“I will have to play better against Shaun. The bottom half always looked harder in this event, more so now Ding has gone out in the top half. It is almost certainly going to be a top player in every match if I want to have a run here, it is a very strong line-up.”
Gerrard Greene, who reached the final of the Paul Hunter Classic this season before losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan, pulled off a surprise 4-1 victory over Ricky Walden.
And Hong Kong’s Marco Fu saw off the challenge of Gary Wilson 4-0.
Photographs by Monique Limbos