Shaun Murphy interview: 'My wife says I'm a show off... so playing without a crowd can be unsettling' squib
For the 128 competitors who gathered for the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, things have been rather different from what they have experienced before. For a start the tournament is taking place in August, delayed by the pandemic from its conventional April slot. And, when they arrive at the venue, the players have been faced with the sort of covid-preventing measures, from undergoing frequent tests to not shaking hands before a match, that ensure this is like no other tournament. “The list of dos and don’ts we’ve been sent is extreme,” says Shaun Murphy, the 2005 champion who begins his tournament against Noppon Saengkham of Thailand on Monday. “And rightly so. The governing body have done a brilliant job to prepare us for this. They are flag bearers for the return of normal sport. So it’s important we’re seen to be doing the right things. Yes, a few of the strictures may be a little over the top, but ultimately we’re all very lucky to be going back to work. If there’s a few hoops we have to jump through, so be it.” Murphy arrived in Sheffield after attending the funeral in Portugal of his manager and mentor Brandon Parker. He says he is hoping to dedicate success to Parker, who had been with him since he won the world title. But he knows the circumstances are not easy. Like all involved, Murphy has barely played a competitive match since February. “Back then I’d been on the road for six, seven weeks consecutively,” he recalls. “I did an interview post-match at one tournament and once the cameras were off I said: ‘Jeez I’d like a week or two off this just to stay at home and work on my game’. All I can say is: be careful what you wish for.” At least in lockdown he did work on his game. Consigned to his home in Ireland for eleven weeks, he spent much of the time watching videos on YouTube of former players in action, trying to improve through study. When he was finally able to go back to the snooker club in Dublin where he practises, he reckons it was as big a release as he has ever felt.