Shaun Murphy: Only a couple of players can live with my current form

Shaun Murphy believes his performances over the last two weeks have been better than at any other time in his career, and if he can keep it up then only a couple of players can compete with him.

The 40-year-old has had a spectacular February, reaching the final of the Welsh Open and immediately bouncing back from defeat there to win the Players Championship on Sunday night.

Not only did the Magician win the big-money, prestigious title, but he did it in some style, making a record-breaking 11 centuries in the event as he blew the competition away.

The power-scoring shown by the former world champion has been incredible, knocking in the five highest breaks of the tournament at the Players Championship (145, 141, 137, 135 and 133).

This followed some stunning breaks at the Welsh, including his outrageous win over Daniel Wells which saw him make 145 and 147 in back-to-back frames.

It is the purpliest purple patch imaginable for the Magician, and even though he has won snooker’s biggest titles in the past, never has he consistently produced the level of performance he has managed in the last couple of weeks.

Asked if he has ever played this well before, Murphy said on his onefourseven podcast: ‘Never, no never. I’ve had the odd match or burst of frames that have been similar, but I’ve never played in my entire career as a professional snooker player, as well as I’ve played in the last two weeks.

‘I’ve won bigger tournaments, obviously the 2005 World Championship as a 22-year-old, the UK, the Masters, but I didn’t play as well then as I did in the last two weeks.

The challenge now is to keep it up, with the World Championship just weeks away and the man-in-form now one of the favourites for Crucible glory.

Murphy knows how tough it is to maintain form, but also knows that if he can continue to play like he is, there is almost no one who will get the better of him.

‘If I can find some way of maintaining it then who knows what can happen in the next three events,’ the world number six continued.

‘We’ve got the WST Classic, Tour Championships and of course the season-ending World Championships.

‘If I can find a secret method of sustaining whatever it is I’ve found, of cultivating it, of looking after it, nurturing it and remembering to bring it on the ferry next time I come from Ireland, I’ll be dangerous.

‘If I play like that there are only a couple of players in the game who can come with me.’

Murphy’s Players Championship win was his first title since February 2020, with the time between triumphs including some worrying dips in form.

He is undeniably back among snooker’s elite, though, coming through some travel problems that Covid brought about due to living in Ireland, and taking the step of gastric sleeve surgery to lose weight.

There are a number of other things that Murphy has done to reach peak performance, though, as he explained: ”I’ve changed quite a few things so I couldn’t tell you specifically exactly what it is that’s responsible.

‘One thing I’ve done, which is go back to what I did very early in my career, which is set some very specific, difficult to reach goals that are going to stretch me and get me working hard, things that I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I could actually achieve.

‘I’ve made a couple of technical and strategic tweaks, but I suppose the biggest change I’ve made is to myself.

‘I’ve been more lenient on myself when I make mistakes, understanding that a perfect performance is accepting playing imperfectly. You’re never going to not miss a ball.

‘I’ve tried to bring a bit of fun back into my life on tour as well. It’s been a tough few years. My PA Robbie has a great sense of humour, we have a great time together while we’re away and it takes the pressure off.

‘I’m trying to be a bit more chilled out, a bit more social with everybody and not make snooker the be all and end all.’

Murphy’s next crack at a ranking title comes at the WST Classic from 16-22 March in Leicester.

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