Snooker: Murphy splutters but holds nerve

Last year's 150-1 hero defies illness to seize upon Wattana's mistakes

Shaun Murphy, suffering from a chest infection, began the defence of his world title with a 10-4 victory over Thailand's James Wattana here in Sheffield last night.

Murphy, who became only the second Crucible qualifier to win the title 12 months ago, was feeling lethargic but was not put under much pressure by the below par Wattana, who missed far too many easy balls to come close to pulling off a shock.

"I always thought it would be tough and it was made more difficult because I only had half an hour's sleep," Murphy said. "My head is hurting, I can't get my breath and my throat is so sore it sounds like I'm turning into Barry White."

Making the most of Wattana's errors, he took a 6-1 lead. Though it was reduced to 6-4, he was solid enough in closing out victory. "I played some hard match snooker and that's an extra dimension I've added to my game in the last year," said Murphy, whose highest break was 55.

In his year as champion, Murphy has reached only one final, the Welsh Open, losing to Stephen Lee, but at least avoided the first- fence fall suffered by five defending champions here: John Spencer, Terry Griffiths, Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor and Stephen Hendry.

John Parrott, champion in 1991 but now 29th in the rankings and conscious that this might be his last appearance on snooker's most famous stage, fell 6-0 adrift of Graeme Dott, the runner-up two years ago.

Breaks of 98 and 80 and a clearance of 56 that enabled him to steal the fourth frame on the black came from Dott before Parrott, the only player to inflict a whitewash in the 29 years the championship has been here, averted the threat of suffering this fate himself by securing the seventh frame with a run of 63.

The 41-year-old Liverpudlian also won the eighth but failed on the last black of the ninth as Dott secured the 7-2 lead with which he resumes this morning.

Steve Davis has already done enough to assure himself of his place in the top 16 in the end-of-season rankings and thus a guaranteed return here next year, by which time he will be 49.

After looking for four or five seasons a shadow of a six-times champion, he was an old master restored in reaching the UK final at York in December.

He has been pretty anonymous in his three subsequent tournaments, but the prospect of a last hurrah at the Crucible has focused his mind ­ even if it took him two hours, eight minutes to split his opening four frames with Andy Hicks 2-2. He pulled away to a 6-2 overnight lead which he hopes to convert into the victory he was anticipating would enable him to face Murphy.

John Higgins, who beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in the finals of the Grand Prix and Saga Masters and came desperately close to two other titles in the Malta Cup and China Open finals respectively, came to Sheffield as the player of the season but trailed Mark Selby, the world No 39 from Leicester, 6-3 at close of play.

Higgins seemed certain to level at 2-2 until Selby obtained the snooker he required on the pink and, with fine pots of pink and black, led 3-1. Selby pressed on to 5-2 and secured their last frame after Higgins took the eighth with a 118 break.

Even if Higgins can eke out a win this evening, he faces the rockiest of paths, with Williams, O'Sullivan and Hendry, according to the seedings, in his way.

There is another twist in the game's political strife. Most leading players are unhappy that the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association intend to commandeer one of the two waistcoat logos each is permitted and offer it to the tournament sponsor.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?