Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire will face each other in the first round of the World Championship in Sheffield.
Shaun Murphy’s season so far
It hasn’t been a campaign of note for Murphy, who this time last year entertained many on an exciting run to the World Championship final.
The Magician failed to reach the business end of a single event this term until last month’s Turkish Masters, when he finally featured in the last four.
There have been numerous early exits elsewhere, including at the UK Championship when he lost to Si Jiahui.
Murphy’s subsequent comments berating the inclusion of amateur players in professional events proved controversial, and the love/hate relationship he continuously shares with snooker fans took another turn.
At the Crucible, Murphy has a pretty strong record with three runners-up finishes to go along with the title he memorably won in 2005.
There have been six first-round exits, however, including three in the five years prior to reaching the 2021 final.
Stephen Maguire’s season so far
The 2021/22 season for Maguire has been much the same as Murphy’s – awful.
Two quarter-final appearances in the Scottish Open and the World Grand Prix in December have been the best the 41 year-old has managed.
Maguire has plummeted down the rankings list to number 40 in the world, a dramatic decline for one of the game’s marquee names.
Still, the Scot came through the qualifying test in Sheffield to ensure that he’ll continue his streak of featuring at the venue stages every year since 2004.
That said, despite having reached two World Championship semi-finals, Maguire’s record at the Crucible is diabolical.
The former UK champion has been knocked out at the opening hurdle ten times, including in each of his last two visits.
There aren’t too many matches with needle in snooker, but it’s fair to say that this represents one of the better grudge ties.
Murphy and Maguire famously don’t get on, so a first World Championship battle for the duo could prove to be interesting.
They’ve met 27 times in the past in all competitions, and Murphy boasts a narrow advantage with 14 wins to Maguire’s 13 – albeit the latter has prevailed on the last two occasions.
Neither player has done enough this term to suggest that either could challenge for the world title in 2022.
But with both out of form, it is an opportunity to get up and running in the competition, and who knows what might happen after reaching the second round.
It’s a flip of a coin really, but even though his record in the first round is so bad, Maguire might have the edge after building up some confidence in the qualifiers.
Prediction: Shaun Murphy 9-10 Stephen Maguire
Saturday, April 16th – 7pm
Sunday, April 17th – 7pm
Featured photo credit: WST