Shaun Murphy suffered a first round exit at the Cazoo UK Championship for the third time in four years as he lost 6-5 to Chinese amateur Si Jiahui.
World number six Murphy lost to Chen Feilong in the opening round in York in 2018 and to Eden Sharav in 2019, and now must endure another early exit from a tournament he won in 2008.
Murphy, who reached the final of the Betfred World Championship in May, was suffering from neck and shoulder pain and only intensive physiotherapy allowed him to compete, but would still have expected to beat a 19-year-old opponent who has never been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event. Si is into the last 64 this time to face Dominic Dale.
Si took the first three frames with a top break of 65 and might have added the fourth but for a miss on the final brown. Murphy made it 3-1 but then saw his opponent compile a run of 76 in frame five, and Si took the sixth as well to lead 5-1.
In frame seven, Si got the two snookers he needed on the last red, and had a chance to clear for victory but missed the final blue to a centre pocket. He also let slip chances in the eighth frame and Murphy took advantage with a break of 60 to close to 5-3. Runs of 87 and 85 from the Englishman got him back to 5-5.
In the decider, Murphy trailed 44-53 when he converted an excellent long pot on the penultimate red, to leave the remaining balls at his mercy. But he then missed the blue to a top corner, and Si cleared the table for victory.
“It was a shame to come all the way back to 5-5 and then miss the blue,” said Murphy. “Last week I was in agony on every shot. I have worked with my physio John Cox every day. I wasn’t able to hit any balls until today. Over the weekend I had episcleritis (inflammation within the eye) and I could barely see at one point. That cleared up thanks to the help of Specsavers in York.
“I don’t know a snooker player who doesn’t have problems with their neck and shoulders. This is something I have suffered from for many years and it has flared up very badly for me. Every shot was painful today. I don’t want to take a break from playing. I have to be ready to play at the Scottish Open and to try to get into the World Grand Prix.”
John Higgins, the most consistent player of the season so far having reached the final of the last three tournaments, eased to a 6-1 win over Michael Georgiou. Breaks of 60, 112, 55 and 134 helped Higgins set up a second round match with Sunny Akani or Steven Hallworth.
“Michael didn’t really turn up today, he missed chances,” admitted Wishaw’s Higgins, who travelled straight to York on Monday from Bolton, where he was runner-up at the Cazoo Champion of Champions. “Yesterday I was just dozing on the sofa and watching Netflix. I woke up today and felt a bit better.
“In the final against Judd on Sunday I got blitzed. In the other two finals this season I had my chances, but I lost and that’s the way it is. I’m trying to forget about that and I’ve come here to have another good tournament. Against the very top boys, maybe I get found out a little bit. I need to try to find a way to beat one of them.”
York’s Ashley Hugill won a match at his home venue for the first time, beating Mark Davis 6-4 with a top break of 79. “I am delighted, it’s a huge relief,” said Hugill. “I was just so determined not to lose, especially in front of my family.”
Stephen Maguire, who lifted the trophy in York in 2004, beat Sanderson Lam 6-3 with top breaks of 100 and 105.
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