He secured the World Grand Prix title in dramatic fashion last week but Shaun Murphy is excitedly looking forward as he – and snooker – returns to Manchester for the 2016 Ladbrokes Players Championship.
The Harlow-born potter was buoyed after overcoming Stuart Bingham 10-9 last Sunday and is delighted to see the return of snooker to the Manchester area where he lived for eight years.
The tournament – hosted at EventCity adjacent the Trafford Centre for the first time – begins on Tuesday with Murphy facing Liang Wenbo, the man he defeated at the quarter-final stage in Llandudno.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to what is my spiritual home,” the 2005 world champion told MM on Friday, the same day world number one Mark Selby pulled out of the event – and subsequent China Open – citing ‘personal reasons’.
“All my family are born and bred in Manchester so I’m pleased because there has really been a drought of tournaments over the years.
“We did have Power Snooker at EventCity a number of years ago and it’s a great venue so I’m looking forward to playing on what I consider home turf.”
The event is the second consecutive ranking event covered by ITV – after the World Grand Prix – and Murphy admits terrestrial coverage is essential for the game’s continued growth.
“Taking snooker to as wide an audience as possible is absolutely essential,” he said.
“People say to me they don’t see much snooker on the telly these days but I think these people must live under a rock because there’s more snooker on the TV now than there’s ever been.
“Every ball is on EuroSport, ITV have got four events, the BBC has three; you never need to miss a ball now with the worldwide coverage we’ve got.
“Snooker is absolutely thriving and it’s time the public caught up.”
The Rocket was criticised in the wake of that after instead opting to pot the pink and complete a break of 146.
And Murphy suggests the prize money for a 147 should soon diminish rather than rise – though sponsors Ladbrokes have doubled the pay-out to £20,000 for this event.
“I’m not too sure a 147 really needs a prize anymore, I think they’re that common,” said Murphy, who has notched up five career maximums.
“The standard of play has increased so drastically since the 80s and 90s, there’s been over a hundred 147s – most of them in the last few years – so I don’t think it needs a prize anymore.
“Certainly for the players – or 127 of the 128 tour players – just making a 147 is special enough.
“And I think the days of giving out a prize for a 147 are probably numbered.”
What doesn’t appear numbered is the future number of events we will see in the north-west with Murphy for one clamouring for more.
In his view the future of snooker in the north-west could be prosperous with increased regularity of ranking tournaments aside a growing list of local prospects.
“There are quite a few strong local players,” said the world number four.
“I’m biased, my nephews both play – Joshua Cooper and Ben Murphy – they’re two lads from the Oldham and Rochdale areas and they’re very strong players.
“Another one from Oldham is Ryan Davies. He’s a very promising prospect too, so the future for snooker in Manchester and the north-west is very strong.
“If World Snooker can keep taking snooker back to the area then I reckon you will see more growth there too in the years to come.”
Image courtesy of World Snooker Official via YouTube, with thanks.