SHAUN Murphy completed his Triple Crown collection tonight when he added the coveted Masters title to his World and UK Championship victories.
The Magician joined a select band of snooker’s elite who have triumphed in the sport’s biggest three tournaments.
With an imperious performance, he swept aside the challenge of World No.1 Neil Robertson, powering to a 10-2 win – a record margin in a Masters final.
How different Shaun’s emotions were a year ago when he mulled over his snooker future after a disappointing semi-final reverse at the hands of his great friend and rival Mark Selby.
But actually that loss proved a turning point. Over the following 12 months, Murphy
has collected no fewer than five titles. He has also made three 147 maximum breaks.
All that’s brilliant about his best game was exemplified over the eight days of
the Masters, staged in front of packed houses at Alexandra Palace.
In the tournament’s very first match Shaun helped bury the memory of the 2014 Selby reverse as he edged the world champion 6-5.
Arguably the game of the championship was the subsequent quarter-final against Stephen Maguire. Two-nil down, Shaun rallied before striding to the line for a 6-4 victory.
He also lost the opening two frames of his semi-final with Mark Allen. But that triggered an amazing streak of 11 successive winning frames.
Six of those were against Allen before he stormed into a 5-0 lead against Robertson
in the final. The Aussie would finish the afternoon session with two frames on
the board, but still four adrift of the Magician.
Robertson needed to win the opening frame of the evening play but Shaun was able to nick it on the black.
It was a telling moment and Murphy rammed home his advantage in the next with a superb 127 break – his second century of the match.
He kept his composure as the title he wanted so badly loomed large and closed out Robertson two frames later with a run of 60.
The first prize was a mighty £200,000 but this was all about the glory of the achievement for the marvellous magician.
He said: “The first time I ever came to this great event I would have been 11 or 12. My dad said, ‘Do you think you’ll ever play here one day, son?’ I went, ‘Yeah, I’d like that.’ To finally get the crown is unbelievable. I’m blown away.
“When I won the World Championships as a 22 year-old I thought I was going to blitz through these events. I’ve had to wait a long time and go through some ups and downs on the table and it’s not been easy.
“This time last year I considered going away from snooker completely – what a difference a year makes!”
Robertson, who beat Shaun in the 2012 Masters final and also has a Triple Crown on his CV, was hugely sporting in defeat.
He said: “Shaun played very well today – he has played fantastic all week. No matter, what I tried I just couldn’t produce the sort of snooker that got me to the final.
“But you got to put a lot of that down to how well Shaun played today. I’d just like to say, welcome to the Triple Crown club!”