UK Championship Snooker Betting: Laid back Fu meets resurgent Murphy in Final showdown
Marco Fu's relaxed manner is the perfect foil for his ruthless temperament, says David Hendon. But can he see off Shaun Murphy to become only the third non-British player to win the UK Snooker Championship?
Marco Fu is an inscrutable presence on the snooker table. He rarely shows emotion and his steady but deadly effective style resembles that of his coach Terry Griffiths, the 1979 world champion. Like Griffiths, Fu's relaxed, friendly persona camouflages a ruthlessly determined streak. When he's playing well, you have to scrape him off the table.
His cue action was described by one newspaper this week as 'metronomic' and he ended up calling the tune against Ali Carter in the semi-finals, coming from 5-2 down to win 9-7. Carter, whose ability to play under pressure improved greatly in 2008, clearly grew edgy in the face of Fu's deadpan efficiency. Fu has a very good record - about level in terms of wins - with Ronnie O'Sullivan and one of the reasons for this is that while the Rocket wears his heart on his sleeve, Fu keeps his feelings inside.
And he is some player, certainly the best Hong Kong has ever produced. Fu, who can be backed at [2.52] to win today's final, was educated in Canada, land of many a fine cueist of days gone by, most notably the 1980s triumvirate of Cliff Thorburn, Kirk Stevens and Bill Werbeniuk. He made an immediate impact on the circuit by reaching the final of his first professional event, the 1998 Grand Prix, where Stephen Lee beat him 9-2. Fu was soon a part of the elite top 16 but, unusually, decided to change his technique because he felt he needed to improve to cut it at the very highest level. It affected his form and he looked in danger of not fulfilling an obvious potential.
He turned a corner by coming within a frame of reaching the 2006 world final - losing out 17-16 to Peter Ebdon - and landed his first ranking title at the Grand Prix 14 months ago with a 9-6 defeat of O'Sullivan. If he wins the UK Championship today he will be only the third non-British player, after Ireland's Patsy Fagan and Ding Junhui of China, to capture snooker's second biggest prize.
But first of all he has to get past a resurgent Shaun Murphy, who last night put Stephen Maguire to the sword 9-4. Murphy did not play particularly well but, unlike Maguire, was able to internalise whatever frustration he felt. The fiery Scot, on the other hand, was obviously fed up from an early stage and in the fourth frame smashed the cue ball off two cushions into the pack of reds while snookered to gift Murphy a two-frame advantage.
Murphy, [1.64] to be crowned UK Championship winner, won the 2005 world title as a 150-1 outsider but, despite three years of great consistency, has since won only one further ranking title, the 2007 Malta Cup. He is often well backed but has not quite followed through on that support. Getting to quarter and semi-finals means bags of ranking points but greatness is ultimately judged by what you've won.
He and Fu are well matched in terms of temperament. They are both laid back characters who favour the quiet, undemonstrative approach in the arena. I think Fu will take it - just - but after a week in which snooker's reputation has been dragged through the mud with stories of betting coups and match fixing, either player would be a worthy winner. They may not provide the sort of entertainment the more expressive players offer but they are both honest, hard working and dedicated to their craft. Snooker needs the good guys to be doing well at the moment.
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