Wenbo downs Murphy, through to Shanghai final

Four years on from Ding Junhui’s momentous victory in the 2005 China Open final we have another Chinese player in the final of one of his home events. This time however it is not Ding, but Liang Wenbo who has upset world number three Shaun Murphy to win an engrossing match this morning…

Liang Wenbo 6-5 Shaun Murphy
109(41,59)-7, 102(102)-0, 16-67, 60(60)-78(78c), 71-50, 0-80(66), 59(41)-1, 44-76(75c), 71(71)-14, 13-87(33)

With many expecting that this season’s world championship runner-up Shaun Murphy would have too much for Liang today, his young opponent immediately set about surprising people by moving into a 2-0 lead with breaks of 102, 59 and 41.

Curiously Shaun looked a little flat during the match, but he is a fighter and having taken the third frame, then went on to take a potentially significant fourth frame before the interval to level the match. For much of the frame it looked like it would be Wenbo who would go into the break with a 3-1 lead following a break of 60, but Shaun managed to get back in and clear the table with a break of 78.

From here there was never more than a single frame in it as Wenbo led 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 before Shaun managed to force the inevitable decider. With Liang understandably showing signs of nerves, Murphy had to be the favourite at this stage, despite having never led in the match. Liang though managed to build up a significant lead in the frame and managed to repel Shaun’s attempt at a come-back to clinch a memorable 6-5 victory and book his place in the final.

Not only is this a massive moment for Liang who now has a chance to win his first major title and is up to 14th place in the latest provisional rankings, but tomorrow now promises to be a huge occasion for snooker in China. We do not yet know who he will face but being either the world number 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan or the reigning world champion John Higgins, it will be a compelling match either way.

I am not too surprised that Liang has done so well this week, but I must admit that I did not fancy him to beat Shaun Murphy today, a player who has looked so good himself. Since his victory in the Beijing International Challenge earlier on in the summer it has been evident that he is not playing quite as aggressively as before and that he is adding more strings to his bow as an all-round snooker player. He does however remain an attacking player and if he can find the right balance as he seems to be doing now, this could be the first of many finals…

Shaun meanwhile was obviously not happy to have lost as reported on SkySports:

“It’s a disappointing end to a good tournament,”

“It’s the most successful Shanghai Masters I’ve had. I came into the match full of confidence but I played about 60%, whereas earlier in the week I was about 90%.

“He will need to play better to win the tournament and stop playing silly shots.

“That’s what happens in sport, I had three matches playing very near to my best. This is the semi-final which is very important and I didn’t play my best – I don’t know why.

“If he plays like he played against me today he will lose, but he is capable of winning if he pots more balls and plays better safety.

“He beat me today but if I had played better and not missed the easy balls then I would have won.

“It was my fault I lost. He’s very entertaining and fun to watch, but this is about winning, not entertaining.”