Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Embassy World Snooker Championships, by Kirk

The Embassy World Snooker Championships at Sheffield's Crucible theatre have been a part of my TV life since I was old enough to wield a cue.

Alex Higgins, Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor and 18 million viewers after midnight in 1985, Steven Hendry's magnificent 7 in the 90s and the rise of Ronnie - all vivid memories for me! Maybe it's because the whole thing lasts almost three weeks and takes a certain amount of patience to stay with that makes it so special; you feel as if you've been through the pressure, the disappointment and the triumph with them by the end of it. Not to mention that it always throws up a decent amount of drama and the odd fairy tale success too.

Before the tournament, it would have taken a fool, or a brave man, to bet against the reigning champ, O'Sullivan; he looked invincible, and even after an early scare his game looked smooth and solid as ever through to the quarter-finals. But then a controversial match with Peter Ebdon, whose slow style and possible gamesmanship broke Ronnie down, and it was anyone's - Ronnie declared he was taking a year off, and looking at the drawsheet from the other games all the top seeds had fallen in earlier rounds.

By the time the semi-finals broke off only Matthew Stephens held a top 10 world ranking, but even then you weren't sure he would win it with the other 3 all giant killing underdogs. Stephens made the final, as he did in 2002, but it was 150/1 qualifier Shaun Murphy who stood in his way: a local lad of 22 that I hadn't even heard a whisper of before he beat John Higgins in the second round. A classic match ensued with never more than 4 frames between them in the marathon 4 session best of 35.

The temperament of both players was great and no one was wishing that higher profile players had made it to the final, for here were worthy contenders.

After 14 hours of play over 2 days it was Murphy whose mettle stood the test, as he emerged the victor 18-16 to be crowned the final Embassy World Champion!

From obscurity to legend within the game in a matter of two weeks, and a check for £250,000 to put an extra shine on the trophy! Couldn't have happened to a nicer lad, by the looks of it. Top Telly!


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