Shaun Murphy finally returned to winning ways yesterday by capturing the Gdynia Open title in Poland.
The 31 year-old beat Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien 4-1 in the final and also compiled a maximum 147 break in his fourth round success over Jamie Jones.
That marked the second time he made the perfect break in just a matter of weeks following his run in the Championship League in January.
While Murphy will be delighted to have made such an achievement, what will please him even more is that he has rejoined the winner’s circle after an absence of almost three years.
The Englishman won the invitational Brazil Masters in September 2011 but you have to go back to March of that year for his last victory in a tournament carrying ranking points – the inaugural PTC Grand Finals that were staged at The Helix in Dublin.
Murphy has not gone off the radar in that time, far from it as he is still an established member of the world’s top eight.
However, the former world champion has found it difficult to convert quarter-finals, semi-finals and the odd final that he has contested in that time period into silverware.
What was lacking was the distinct level of confidence that he oozed when dominating the Crucible in 2005, or indeed when he became the UK champion three years later.
For whatever reason, that aura appeared to return this weekend and following his 4-2 win over Jones in the Last 16 he had a superb 4-3 success over Stephen Maguire in a high-quality affair.
Murphy found himself 3-2 behind but leveled with a 128 and controlled the decider to book his place in the semi-finals.
By that stage, most of the heavy-hitters had been eliminated already and Murphy was the clear favourite.
This tag didn’t seem to faze him so much and a pair of 4-1 scorelines over Matthew Selt and Fergal O’Brien allowed him to taste the glory.
One could say that it was only going to be a matter of time before he etched his name into a trophy again but that isn’t necessarily the case.
If you look at the likes of, say, Matthew Stevens, you see a player who should have won more than he has done in his career – proving that success isn’t guaranteed, but earned.
Murphy has undoubtedly worked hard to find his game again, not least by taking the decision to lose a considerable amount of weight in an effort to improve his fitness, and therefore deserves to be back to winning ways.
A word also for O’Brien, who was taking part in his first final since the 2007 Northern Ireland Trophy.
The Irishman has been a stalwart of the Main Tour for more than two decades and still performs well, consistently holding a position in or around the top 32 in the world mark.
Dubbed the ‘Ferginator’ for his never-say-die mentality, the 41 year-old knew that he had to reach the quarter-finals in order to break into the top 24 in the European Tour Order of Merit list of those players who qualify for the Grand Finals next month.
It’s a shame for O’Brien that he wasn’t able to go all the way but he deserves plenty of plaudits, particularly in his home country, for being one of only a few who have flown the Irish flag so proudly for such a sustained period.
Speaking of the Grand Finals, it was announced this morning that, after much speculation, Thailand will not be staging the event due to continued political unrest in the region.
A new venue is being negotiated on as we speak – expected to be in Europe – and an announcement will be made in due course.
Ireland, of course, successfully staged the first three Players Tour Championship Grand Finals and it was a shock in some circles when the initial announcement to move it to Thailand was made.