Shaun Murphy advanced to the semi-finals of the Tour Championship on Wednesday with a 10-8 victory over Robert Milkins.
In a repeat of the Welsh Open final from last month, Murphy gained a modicum of revenge over his fellow Englishman.
But a lot of discussion during the opening few days at the Bonus Arena in Hull has revolved around the poor attendances, as was evident again in the third quarter-final.
“Absolutely, 100%,” Shaun Murphy said on ITV after being asked whether it was hard to get up for the match because of the flat atmosphere.
“I’m not a shy and retiring type of person, I want to put a show on. When there’s not an audience there, it’s difficult.”
“It’s the same for both players, and at the end of the day it’s a race to ten. You’ve got to put that behind you.
“I think the tickets have sold well for the weekend, so the reward for getting through a match like that is, come the weekend, we will get to play in front of a packed house.”
Numerous reasons have been suggested for the disappointing number of empty seats on display this week so far.
The fact that the World Snooker Tour continuously chops and changes its venues for different events like a merry-go-round is a recurring issue, with no sense of identity ever being developed as a result.
It certainly doesn’t help that many of the biggest stars have failed to qualify, with the likes of reigning Tour Championship winner Neil Robertson, world number Ronnie O’Sullivan, and Masters champion Judd Trump not in Hull.
Yet that would surely put an even greater emphasis on strongly promoting what is supposed to be a prestigious competition on the calendar featuring the season’s top eight competitors.
Whether snooker is doing enough in terms of marketing is questionable generally, too often lazily relying on the likes of O’Sullivan to fill seats.
The tournament also represents the third in a relatively small area of England, with the UK Championship in York and the upcoming World Championship in Sheffield.
Selling out for every session is not easy but neither is it impossible, and it’s vital that more effort is put into this area because the familiar feature of empty arenas and dull atmospheres is doing the sport a disservice.
This is particularly true when people tune in to watch on television or online and are provided with a negative impression of the sport’s overall popularity.
On his performance, meanwhile, Murphy was pleased to rely on his B-game to come through a difficult opening test, having at one stage trailed Milkins 5-1.
“I think the last frame was the first of the whole match that I won in one visit,” the Players Championship winner quipped.
“I suppose it’s better to save it until the end. I was chatting to my wife Elaine earlier on, and she said those two last frames this afternoon were vital.”
“How vital they were. If it’s 6-2 or 7-1 behind, it’s over really, and to scramble those two gave me a foothold in the match.
“At 5-1 it was looking badly. But you know what, it’s very easy after a performance like Wolverhampton to become ultra critical of yourself.
“This is a very difficult game. This afternoon, it wasn’t the performance I wanted, but from my point of view I felt like I was a couple of pots and a few cannons from playing really nicely.
“This afternoon, I stuck to my guns and this evening I came out positively. A few years ago, that’s the type of match I wouldn’t have won.
“I was known to only win if I burst the lights out, whereas that’s changed. It took me a bit longer than some of my peers to get that B and C-game.
“But I have got it now, I will have a bit of patience and I will wait. It obviously didn’t achieve the heights of the Players Champs, but there was some nice play in there too.”
Murphy will next face either Mark Selby or Ryan Day, with that pair contesting the final quarter-final fixture on Thursday.
Tour Championship draw
Ding Junhui 10-5 Mark Allen
Ali Carter 4-10 Kyren Wilson
Mark Selby vs Ryan Day (Thurs)
Shaun Murphy 10-8 Robert Milkins
Featured photo credit: WST