Kyren Wilson is in stupendous form at the moment. Last Monday, he strolled from his central Cardiff hotel to the city’s impressive Motorpoint Arena, where his first-round opponent in the Welsh Open was 18-year-old world No98 Jackson Page from nearby Ebbw Vale. To say that Wilson began impressively is an understatement, for he kicked off with a 147 maximum break, and, although young Page rallied bravely, Wilson won 4-3 in the end. Wilson then beat world No60 Liam Highfield 4-2 then thrashed world No34 Martin O’Donnell 4-0, before defeating world No9 Ding Junhui 4-2. Next he faced Neil Robertson, the world No2 who had appeared in the most recent three ranking tournament finals, winning two of them, but the Australian’s wonderful run was brought to a juddering stop by Wilson, who whitewashed him 5-0 in their quarter-final.
In his semi-final Wilson faced the most talented player in the history of the game, Ronnie O’Sullivan, currently ranked No6 only because he plays in so few tournaments nowadays; Wilson beat him 6-5 to earn a place in the final, which was played yesterday, his opponent the world No10 Shaun Murphy.
Murphy is 37, nine years older than Wilson, and he has been around a lot longer, having turned pro in 1998, 12 years before Wilson did. Possessed of an almost perfect technique and cue action, Murphy is an attacking player who habitually takes on long pots where most other top players would choose safety shots, and he has enjoyed a very good career, albeit always one rung down from the three superstars who have dominated the era in which he has played, namely O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, who are all 44 years old, and the three players who look likeliest to inherit their tripartite hegemony, namely Robertson (38), Mark Selby (36) and Judd Trump (30).
Nonetheless, Murphy won the 2005 World Championship, has risen as high as No3 in the world rankings, albeit some years ago, and has so far won a total of nine ranking tournaments, a decent tally albeit outclassed by O’Sullivan’s 36, Higgins’ 30 and Williams’ 22. Murphy trails Robertson (18), Selby (17) and Trump (15), as well, and is also significantly behind Ding (14).
So… what happened yesterday? Murphy played the best snooker of his life, that’s what happened yesterday. He won the opening frame with a classy 108 break, followed that with a winning 84 in frame two, then conjured victory from the jaws of defeat in the next three frames, despite breaks of 52 and 64 from Wilson. Murphy then won frame six with a 76 break, which took him to a 6-0 lead. The first to nine would win.
Wilson finally broke his duck, winning frame seven, but there was no stopping Murphy now. He won the three frames he needed for victory with a blaze of potting brilliance, firing in breaks of 134, 102 and 73 in so doing.