Shaun Murphy’s capture of the 2005 World Championship came out of the blue.
Murphy had been earmarked as ‘one to watch’ for a number of years, which is usually a poisoned chalice because if results don’t come quickly it gives people the chance to say ‘he’s not as good as they say.’
Well, Murphy proved he was as good as had been suggested.
He had to qualify for the Crucible in 2005. Indeed, he nearly missed out, scraping past Joe Swail 10-8 to reach Sheffield for a third time.
On his first appearance three years earlier he had drawn Stephen Hendry. After losing, he came into the small press conference room to face the assembled media. This can be a forbidding experience for even hardened competitors let alone rookies.
But Murphy took it all in his stride. His self confidence has never been lacking and he spoke of how he wanted to be remembered in the same breath as Hendry and Steve Davis.
A year later, Ken Doherty beat him 10-9 on the black. In 2004, Murphy reached the British Open semi-finals but this hardly pointed to his extraordinary success at the Crucible a few months later.
In the first round he drew Chris Small, by then seriously afflicted by a disease of the spine. Murphy came through before knocking out John Higgins in the second round and thus proving he could handle the game’s big names on its biggest stage.
Davis fell in the quarter-finals and Peter Ebdon provided a stern test in the semis but Murphy won all five frames of the final session to beat him 17-12.
Matthew Stevens held the clear advantage after day one of the final but Murphy, whose rock solid technique is allied to a similarly fierce temperament, never gave up and won 12 of the final day’s 18 frames to win 18-16 and, at just 22, achieve a lifetime’s ambition.
Murphy became the first qualifier since Terry Griffiths in 1979 to win the world title.
His was the last victory under Embassy’s sponsorship and seemed to indicate the end of one era and the start of another.
It hasn’t quite turned out that way but Murphy, firmly ensconced in the world’s top four, is well placed at the age of 27 to achieve plenty more success in the years to come.
He added the UK Championship trophy to his haul of silverware last season and has also won two Malta Cups.
He was in the world final against last season and I would personally be surprised if he didn’t win it again.