Shaun Murphy will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of a major tournament for the third time this season, after he scored a superb 6-3 win over Mark Williams in the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Players Championship.
Murphy beat O’Sullivan in the final of the Champion of Champions in November then the Rocket took revenge at the UK Championship in December. On Sunday in Llandudno they will battle over a maximum of 19 frames, with the winner to take the trophy and a top prize of £125,000.
It will be Murphy’s fifth final of the season and fourth in a ranking event, as he was runner-up at the China Championship, Paul Hunter Classic and UK Championship. The 35-year-old Nottingham-based cueman will be aiming for the eighth ranking title of his career and first since the 2017 Gibraltar Open.
World number seven Murphy was off to a superb start tonight as a break of 133 gave him the opening frame then he came from 62-0 down to take the second with a brilliant 70 clearance. Another century, 117, extended his lead to 3-0 and he had chances in the fourth but couldn’t clinch it and Williams gained a foothold with a 43 clearance.
Murphy’s 88 made it 4-1 and he might have won the sixth but missed a tricky last red along the top cushion, allowing Welshman Williams to claw one back. Runs for 42 and 45 from former World Champion Murphy put him 5-2 up, though Williams refused to buckle and his break of 127 in the eighth kept his hopes alive.
Frame nine was the scrappiest of the match, both players missing chances. Williams trailed 23-12 when he potted two reds in one shot but finished out of position and had to go for a near-impossible thin cut on the blue to a centre pocket. He missed, and Murphy added 29 points which proved enough for victory.
“It was a simple equation tonight, I knew I had to play at my best,” said Murphy, who won the World Grand Prix at the same venue two years ago. “I hit the ground running in the first three frames. Then I lost the fourth and I was livid at the interval because I thought that could come back to bite me. It is very satisfying to reach another final.
“It is a fabulous opportunity tomorrow to play against the best ever. Let’s see what I’ve got in the locker. I have been consistent this season but I would swap that for another trophy because that’s what we are remembered for.”
Murphy has been troubled by an injury which affects his back and neck in recent weeks. “I’m in absolute agony, I have never played through this much pain before,” he added. “It has got slightly better each day but if the pain was ten out of ten last week, it has now come down to eight and a half. On certain shots where I am stretching or using the rest it is very sore. I came here expecting to lose in the first round, so I am as surprised an anyone to be in the final.”
Williams, who missed out on the chance to win his third ranking title of the season, said: “I didn’t do that much wrong, Shaun played fantastic. He hardly missed a long pot. I have to take my hat off to him. I stuck in there and if I had got it to 5-4 then who knows what would have happened. If Shaun plays like that tomorrow he will have every chance.”