Eden Sharav

Shaun Murphy Starts Well in Paul Hunter Classic

Shaun Murphy defied four flights and only a couple of days travel time in between events to reach the last 16 of the Paul Hunter Classic on Friday.

Shaun Murphy German Masters
Murphy won the Paul Hunter Classic in 2008 and 2009. Photo credit: Monique Limbos.

The Englishman had only just contested the final of the China Championship, in which he lost 10-5 to Luca Brecel, on Tuesday and had to scramble in order to make his Friday morning start time in Germany.

Murphy duly made it in time, holding off amateur Adam Stefanow in the first round 4-2 before more comprehensive victories over Sam Baird and Ken Doherty helped him into Sunday’s fourth round.

The former world champion is the only player left in the top segment of the draw who can boast a ranking event crown to his name, with the tournament clearly feeling the effects of a weakened field amid several higher ranked non entries.

While Murphy might yet advance to a second successive final showdown this weekend, and there are several proven champions still in the bottom half of the draw that is to be whittled down on Saturday, it does look decidedly possible that there could be a third first-time winner of this young campaign already.

Murphy will meet Zhao Xintong for a quarter-final berth after the young Chinese overcame Reanne Evans and Craig Steadman.

Zhao had been heralded in a holy trinity of teenage players from China alongside Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao but his two countrymen have been the star performers on the Main Tour over the last 12 months.

Zhao reached the last 16 of the German Masters earlier this year, so obviously has fond memories of performing in front of the enthusiastic German support, and the recently turned 20 year-old will be seeking to make this event his springboard to greater success.

Meanwhile, former ranking event runners-up Ben Woollaston and Tom Ford meet after emerging unscathed passed their opening three hurdles.

The pair is among a selection of names now bandied about when considering likely future winners.

Ford was a beaten finalist in last year’s edition when he was denied a maiden success by Mark Selby, so he’ll be hoping to go one better on this occasion.

Elsewhere, Gary Wilson, also a ranking event bridesmaid after defeat in the final of the 2015 China Open, came through a tough opener against Jimmy White before recording more routine triumphs against Rod Lawler and amateur Andy Symons.

Wilson will face Chris Wakelin next, with the latter coming from 2-0 and 3-2 down to prevail in a decider against Michael Georgiou in the last 32.

Finally, Welshman Jamie Jones secured a hat-trick of 4-2 successes, including against countryman Dominic Dale, to set up a clash against veteran Peter Lines.

On Saturday, the bottom half of the draw plays out their section in order to find out the remaining eight competitors who will join the last 16.

Defending champion Selby is first in action against Michael Holt, while Brecel bids to prolong his spell of good form as he takes on Ashley Carty.

Click here to view the draw.

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