Shaun Murphy and Si Jiahui will face each other in the first round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Shaun Murphy
Shaun Murphy undoubtedly represents the player in the most form heading into the 2023 World Snooker Championship.
The Magician followed up his run to the Welsh Open final with a blitzing of the field at the Players Championship.
Murphy then triumphed in the prestigious Tour Championship at the start of this month, beating Kyren Wilson in the final in Hull.
When Murphy’s form nosedived last season and he became a more regular presence in the commentary box, there were some fears that his career at the top might be nearing an end.
But far from it, and the 40 year-old will begin this World Championship campaign as one of the big favourites for glory.
Murphy memorably won as a qualifier in 2005 boasting a gung-ho attacking style, and while he still has that in his arsenal, the Englishman’s recent improvement in the tactical area of the game makes him a dangerous proposition for anyone.
This season for Si Jiahui
When Si Jiahui fell off the main tour in 2021, there was a sense that it was only a matter of time before he got back on.
So it proved, and his second stint on the circuit is certainly going better than his first so far with a World Championship debut to show for it.
Si reached the quarter-finals of the European Masters at the start of the campaign and successfully qualified for the German Masters.
However, the former WSF Championship winner has come alive in Sheffield – winning three ties to qualify for the Crucible Theatre for the first time.
The 20 year-old conquered Tom Ford and Jordan Brown in the preliminary competition, two impressive scalps.
Murphy and Si head-to-head
Murphy and Si have met once before in professional competition, and it was a memorable one.
Then competing as an amateur top-up, Si stunned the Magician 6-5 in the first round of the 2021 UK Championship in York.
In the immediate aftermath, Murphy generated headlines for all the wrong reasons for an ill-timed outburst regarding the legitimacy of using amateur top-ups in pro tournaments – comments he has since apologised for.
Whether or not there will actually be needle going into their second battle against each other is debatable, but the media will do its best to create one.
There are a lot of talented young Chinese players and it’s easy to paint them all with the ‘he could be a world champion’ brush.
But Si genuinely looks capable of big things. Whether he will secure another breakthrough against Murphy on this occasion is a different matter.
The Englishman, who is based in Dublin, has looked so good during the last couple of months and if he brings anywhere near that level there’s only going to be one outcome.
Prediction: Shaun Murphy 10-5 Si Jiahui
Wednesday, April 19th – 7pm
Thursday, April 20th – 7pm
Featured photo credit: WST