World Championship 2009: Final Updates (Day One)

So here we are, the final. Here I will be posting updates as the match progresses this Sunday. Nothing tomorrow though as I will be there watching!

John Higgins v Shaun Murphy (First Session)

Frame 1: A slightly cagey start with some safety but the first mistake comes from Shaun and Higgins punishes him by winning the frame in one visit to lead 1-0…

Frame 2: John needs two chances this time but a couple of mistakes from Murphy has given them to him without much trouble and it has been an excellent start for the Scot. 2-0. Incidentally, the table looks to be in great shape today, much improved from the semi-finals.

Frame 3: Very early days of course but as Higgins takes another frame for 3-0, this is starting to become concerning for Shaun who will not want to let him build up too much of a head start. John is looking very good though…

Frame 4: Well he might be behind but there is nothing wrong with Shaun’s cueing if some of his long pots are anything to go by. He’s made his highest break of the match (58) and importantly even at this stage, has kept himself in touch at the interval. 3-1.

Frame 5: Another excellent long red from Shaun to start the frame, think that’s four from five in now, first chance to him…he can only make eight however as he’s come on nothing after the subsequent black. A few shots on and this frame has become very, very scrappy, seven reds on cushions, colours off their spots and both struggling to gain the upper hand. Surely this one will become the longest frame in what has so far been a very quick match.

Nice to see that there are no sponsors ribbons on the trophy this year by the way, looks much cleaner.

Well the frame is over and despite Murphy conceding 28 points in fouls, he has forced a mistake from John and cleared the table to get back to just one behind at 3-2. Big frame for Shaun because when the action gets scrappy like that I would expect John to come through and win most of the time…

Frame 6: Great stuff from Shaun who is flying now. First century of the match and we are level at 3-3. Taking that frame before the mid-session interval has really helped him out.

Frame 7: Having looked so good early on it is now John who is definitely starting to struggle now, though he has edged his way into the lead during the penultimate frame of this session. That said, he’s missed a red to the right-centre and Murphy now has a good chance to counter, just the blue in a difficult position…and he’s just failed to develop it. Four points behind, 18 remaining…well that’s a dramatic finish, John has failed to escape from a snooker on it and eventually left the blue in the jaws for Shaun. Following a good shot to land perfectly on the pink, that’s 4-3 Murphy, an impressive comeback!

Frame 8: Well this is a bizarre end to the session as both are struggling to pot a ball. Higgins has a nice 52 point lead but he is making hard work of closing it out…and while he had a great chance to get out with a 5-3 lead, he’s broken down on a tricky green and John has stepped in to level the score at 4-4. Very interesting, the momentum change from 3-0 to 4-4 was intriguing to see.

John Higgins v Shaun Murphy (Second Session)

Frame 9: Scrappy start to the session again with both players missing a few balls but with a couple of scoring visits, John Higgins has gone back into the lead at 5-4…

Frame 10: A nice 31 break from Murphy to open up the second frame of the session but it really should have been more. A great long red from Higgins gives him a chance to punish him for losing position…a careless shot though sends him in-off into the green pocket and a half-century from Murphy brings us level again. 5-5.

Frame 11: Both players have had chances again and with two reds left, Shaun has a 17 point lead. I’m starting to sense that this could be an important part in the match as I feel that if Murphy can find his A-game, he could get himself a big lead going into tomorrow. John looks really quite tired tonight and maybe those close matches he has had to make the final are just catching up with him?

That said, Shaun does not particularly look like finding his best form just yet and if John can keep his focus then there is no player on the tour better equipped to hang on to Murphy than him.

Via a terrific safety shot, John has indeed pinched a frame that at one point Murphy looked to be in the driving seat for. 6-5.

Frame 12: Murphy with the first chance but again he has failed to make it count as he misses a red from mid-distance into a corner pocket. Can John take it to lead 7-5 at the mid-session interval? It would be some result given how he has played at times! He can indeed, 7-5 it is and he I expect that he will be delighted with that!

Frame 13: After what seems like the longest interval ever, the players are back and it is John in with the first chance to score…and he takes it. 8-5 and he’s sure to be at least level overnight now. Given how he looked at the start of this session I am really surprised by this, just goes to show what a brilliant matchplayer he is.

Frame 14: Well he’s threatening to run away with this now, 9-7 with his 10th century break of the tournament and his 95th at the Crucible. Two more frames to go this session for Shaun Murphy and it is important that he wins at least one of them to stay just about in touch…

Frame 15: Another frame, another one on the board for John who now leads 10-5. Murphy is struggling so badly at the moment with his safety and Higgins is just taking full advantage. Crucial I feel that he takes the last here though to just about stay in tough overnight…

75% safety success for Shaun compared to 86% for John – that’s the difference I feel.

Frame 16: And John completes a dream session with century number 11, winning seven of the eight frames played to lead 11-5 overnight. Really top stuff from Higgins, though Shaun just crumbled towards the end and made things easy for him at times. Still, John led Mark Selby 12-4 overnight a couple of years ago and that turned out to be a close run thing so you cannot rule him out…