SHAUN Murphy faces a fight to achieve his dream of clinching a second World Snooker Championship title with little separating him from Stuart Bingham in the final.
Murphy lifted the trophy for the first time in 2005 and a decade later he established a narrow 9-8 advantage over Bingham – the two playing to a finish today.
With his heavy scoring at the Crucible Theatre over the past fortnight, Murphy has dominated opponents and he demonstrated that ability once again during yesterday afternoon’s first session – three half-century breaks helping him race into a 3-0 lead.
But Bingham, a 50-1 outsider for the title before the tournament began, has shown considerable heart to battle his way to this stage for the first time and a break of 105 was the highlight as he fought back to 4-4.
The Essex potter could only sit and watch at the start of the evening session, however, as Murphy’s piston-like cue action was working to full effect, enabling him to open up an 8-4 lead, including back-to-back centuries before being pegged back.
The 32-year-old was a qualifier when he won the World Championship in 2005 and he also reached the final in 2009, losing 18-9 to John Higgins.
But now firmly entrenched in the top eight of the world rankings, the Nottingham-based cueman insists a second world title would be his crowning glory.
“It will mean more than winning it the first time around if I were to win it again and I will be putting everything I’ve got into the match,” said Murphy in the lead-up to the final.
“I didn’t really take part in the 2009 final against John [Higgins], so to have another crack at it is what I have been dreaming of since then.
“I’ve developed beyond all recognition since I won in 2005 – I’m a nicer bloke than I was ten years ago and I’m definitely more mature.
“Without question, I’m playing the best snooker I’ve ever played and I’ve played some good stuff over the years.”
Bingham is another man who has never shied away from hard work – something of a journeyman for a large part of his 20-year professional career, the 38-year-old has been a player transformed during the last five years.
He has won multiple ranking event titles and established himself in the world’s top ten, although success at the Crucible Theatre has always eluded him – a quarter-final in 2013 was his best previous display. But victories over Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump to reach the 2015 final appear to have given him confidence and he demonstrated that at 8-4 down, reeling off three straight frames, including a 123 break, to narrow the deficit to one.
The perennial underdog appears to be relishing that role once again.
“Obviously I want to go one step further, but just to get into the world final is unbelievable,” said Bingham after his semi-final win over Trump.
“I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll be the underdog again and I am just hopefully going to enjoy every second of it, win lose or draw. I want to win. That would mean everything to me. But if I don’t, I don’t.
“The age I am, I won’t get many more chances. Someone like Shaun maybe has a few more finals left in him, but this might be my one and only. Hopefully, I can make it count.”
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