It was a similar contest to last year’s final, both in the score line and the way it played out. In one corner, we have the defending champion who also happens to be competing in his first tournament of the season; and in the other corner we have a player who has already been in one ranking final and has stormed his way to the closing match of the Shanghai Masters.
Murphy took the opening three frames of the bout which included breaks of 43, 62 and 68. The surprising element of these frames was that O’Sullivan was in with opportunities first but missed reds to leave his opponent to take the frames. Straight from the offset, Murphy was displaying his supreme long potting ability.
Most viewers (and probably Murphy himself) probably didn’t expect this kind of start to the match. When it seemed that that Murphy was going to take a 4-0 lead going into the mid-session interval, he broke down on 43 by playing a loose positional shot from the blue. After laying a tight snooker behind the green, O’Sullivan was able to steal the fourth frame.
The next three frames were taken by O’Sullivan – meaning he overturned his 3-0 deficit to take the next four frames in a row. Frames 5 and 6 produced chances for Murphy to steal as O’Sullivan did not make any frame winning contributions, but it was not to be in those frames. The match was 5-5 going into the evening’s session although Murphy probably should have cleared the table in the last frame to secure a lead.
An unfortunate miscue on the blue in Frame 12 meant the first two frames of the evening were shared between the players. The entire match displayed this kind of close competition throughout. There’s always a high level of enjoyment watching O’Sullivan and Murphy play against each other. Anyway, I digress.
The first century wasn’t seen until Frame 13 where Murphy made 111. This should have given Murphy the confidence to continue and pull ahead but a poor break off allowed O’Sullivan to respond with a break of 130.
Breaks of 51, 32, 45 and 29 helped O’Sullivan clinch the next two frames. He was also aided by an incredulous fluke in Frame 15. O’Sullivan was now pulling away for the first time in the match. This was followed by his second century of the match in the next frame (124). The score was now 10-7.
Murphy wasn’t done though – breaks of 82 and 90 helped him take the next two frames. He was trying to force a decider in Frame 20 but broke down on a break of 29. O’Sullivan then finished the match with 86 to secure the turkey of Shanghai Masters trophies.
What I really enjoyed about this match (besides how close it was) was that neither player was afraid to play aggressively and go for the long pots. I think because each player understand their opponents style (considering all the finals they contested in the past few years), they were embracing the chances to go for the longer pots.
Where most players would wait for their opponents to make a mistake and leave them in among the balls, Murphy would create his chances from his confident, yet lethal long potting. There wasn’t a lot of one-visit snooker that would have been expected with this kind of match-up but there was a constant back and forth which kept tensions and excitement high. It was easy to forget that O’Sullivan was 3-0 down in the beginning.
As always though, there was good camaraderie between O’Sullivan and Murphy throughout and at the end of the match. They put on a great contest for the Shanghai audience and those watching from all over and it probably won’t be the last time they meet each other in a final.