SHAUN Murphy is desperate to get his hands on the Betway UK Championship title once more after admitting it feels like an age since his last triumph at the tournament.
The 35-year-old cruised into the quarter-finals at the York Barbican as he rattled off a century break on his way to beating close friend Ricky Walden 6-1.
Murphy beat Marco Fu in a thrilling final to hoist the trophy back in 2008 and he revealed it’s a competition that’s close to his heart.
“It seems like a long time ago since I won. A lot has happened since then and there’s a lot of water under the bridge,” explained the world No.6.
“Every now and again I see social media posts saying that I won it on a fluked pink! I think they forget about the other 18 frames.
“Since then I’ve lost in a final and a couple of semi-finals but this is an event that I would dearly love to win again.
Every now and again I see social media posts saying that I won it on a fluked pink! I think they forget about the other 18 frames.Shaun Murphy
“But having already won it, I guess the pressure isn’t quite as strong.”
A mouth-watering match-up with veteran Mark King awaits in the last eight and Murphy was quick to praise his next opponent, who he believes gets unfair criticism.
“It doesn’t get any easier. I think Mark King is a completely different animal since winning in Northern Ireland last year,” added Murphy.
“He’s a winner and he knows how to win. I know he’s been working hard with my coach Chris Henry on the mental side of the game and you can see the affect it’s had on him in the past two years.
“I think sometimes the punditry team can be very critical and forget how difficult this game actually is. I think someone like Mark King deserves a lot more credit. He’s a winner. He’s been a professional for a long, long time.
“There won’t be many other professionals playing on the tour as long as him who get the criticism he gets.
“I don’t think it’s fair and I think we should all be a bit nicer.”
It was a tough afternoon for Walden, who has spent most of the past year battling a debilitating back injury, but the 35-year-old will take plenty of positives from the competition.
He said: “This has been a great week from my point of view. Even though it was only a last 16 I feel like I made some great strides.
“I feel as though I can play to a decent level now, I just need to keep working hard and get fully fit, play more games like that and get back to where I was.”
Elsewhere, Ronnie O’Sullivan survived a major scare to edge out world No 84 Sunny Akani 6-5.
Five-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan squeezed home in the deciding frame, after Akani blew the chance to wrap up victory when leading 5-4.
O’Sullivan will now meet Martin Gould in the quarter-finals, and will doubtless be relieved to have prevailed over Thailand’s 22-year-old Akani, who led 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4 in an enthralling encounter.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan remains on course for yet another title at the York Barbican, but must clearly sharpen up after a patchy effort on Thursday night.
Mark Joyce saw off Lyu Haotian 6-4 to book a last-eight showdown with Wales’ Ryan Day, while Martin Gould had to show real grit to battle his way beyond Xiao Guodong.
The English potter rattled off three successive frames to come from 4-3 down to book a place in the last eight.
And the 36-year-old believes it was his experience that helped him see off the Chinese cueman.
“You’ve got to win ugly sometimes. I drew on a bit of experience from past times and made sure I got the job done,” he said.
“Sometimes you have to use your experience and what you’ve got left in the tank. It’s all about potting balls and that’s what I’ve been doing so far.
It’s nice to be in the quarters and hopefully I’ll still be here at the weekend.”
Watch LIVE coverage of the UK Championship on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.