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Shaun Murphy names the greatest ever, his nemesis and the toughest opponents of his snooker career


Shaun Murphy has taken on many of the greatest ever to play snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Shaun Murphy has played many of the finest players to ever pick up a cue since he first turned professional back in 1998 and four men stand out to him when asked who has posed the toughest challenge on the snooker table.

Having been to four World Championship finals, the Magician can himself be counted as one of the best players ever to take to the table, with nine ranking titles to his name including his memorable first triumph at the Crucible in 2005.

Asked who has presented the sternest test of his career so far, Murphy looks back at different reasons why some players have been a struggle for him, starting with facing his idols as a young, fresh-faced pro.

‘Steve Davis was extremely hard for me to play because he was my absolute idol,’ Murphy told the Talking Snooker podcast. ‘In terms of on the table games, I expected to beat him when we played, I was a stronger player than he was when we finally crossed paths.

‘But I remember the 2005 World Championship quarter-finals, I remember walking out there and finding it hard to breath. In the very early moments in that match, I was the 9-year-old kid with a Steve Davis poster on my wall, there were moments where I literally couldn’t breath, couldn’t think straight

‘So in that regard Steve would be in the conversation [for toughest opponent].

Shaun Murphy and Steve Davis have twice met at the Crucible (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Stephen Hendry for similar reasons. I made my debut at the Crucible against Stephen and I remember thinking I would have the crowd on my side because everyone hated Hendry at the time but when he walked into the arena it was like God himself had walked among us, the place went mental.

‘I remember the realisation struck me that I wasn’t going to have it all my own way and I thought I was in trouble.’

While Davis and Hendry held certain psychological edges over a young Murphy, he feels the best pure player he has ever seen is Ronnie O’Sullivan, although admits this is not a universally held opinion.

‘When you get down to actually on the table, Ronnie in my opinion, is the greatest snooker player of all time, but I know a lot of people who would disagree,’ he said.

‘But in terms of pure shot-making, who can play what shot when, you’d have to put him at the top.’

Memorable as one of Murphy’s best performances was not against the Rocket, the Nugget or the King of the Crucible, but a man he has considered his nemesis at times of his career, John Higgins.

Murphy beat Davis in the quarter-finals in ’05 after knocking Higgins out in the second round, a win he still revels in 16 years later.

‘I rank that match against John Higgins in the second round in ’05 right up there among the best I’ve ever played because he was my absolute nemesis,’ said the 38-year-old.

‘At that stage of my career, whenever I got to a personal best at a tournament, I ran into John Higgins. It was only a few months before that he beat me 6-0 in an hour at the British Open and I hardly scored a point.

‘Walking into him, after beating Chris Small in the first round, and at the back of my mind thought, “I’m probably going to lose this match.”

‘I couldn’t believe that I got to 13 before he did. I rank that as one of my best wins.’


MORE : Ronnie O’Sullivan recalls police chase and fears of being shot before driving ban


MORE : Shaun Murphy on the perils of playing Mark Selby: ‘The boa constrictor comes in and that’s you finished’

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