Ronnie O'Sullivan aims to win his sixth UK Championship title in today's final, whereas Shaun Murphy is bidding for a second. Previewing their latest match-up, Paul Krishnamurty is backing the outsider...
"To my eyes, Murphy seems to be playing as well as before his three previous major victories - producing a combination of lethal potting, superb ball-striking and heavy scoring."
Following a pair of comprehensive semi-final wins, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Shaun Murphy will contest today's UK Championship final at the Barbican Theatre, in a repeat finale of last month's Champion of Champions. Murphy upset the odds on that occasion and, having produced the best snooker of anyone this week, is good value at [2.92] to do so again.
Opposing O'Sullivan is never an easy thing to do. He's already part of our pre-tournament staking plan at [3.8] but each match demands consideration in it's own right. To justify a bet at [1.52], I would want rock-solid form in recent days and a definite advantage over Murphy - neither of which apply.
Over the course of their careers, Ronnie has predictably dominated their encounters. He leads their head-to-head 9-4, notably winning all their triple-crown matches. Until last month in Coventry, all of Murphy's victories had come either pre semi-final or in the now discarded Premier League.
However it is also worth noting that, unlike many other of O'Sullivan's rivals, Murphy has rarely been overwhelmed in their matches, generally keeping things close. And I doubt he's ever arrived for one in such good spirits.
'The Magician' said a few days ago that he was on the verge of playing really well. Next came an outstanding performance to thrash Mark King and a barely inferior showing last night against Ryan Day. To my eyes, he seems to be playing as well as before his three previous major victories - producing a combination of lethal potting, superb ball-striking and heavy scoring.
In contrast, Ronnie has only momentarily been impressive. It was always going to take a major upset to get him beaten early from this draw but a series of lesser opponents have enjoyed plenty of chances to do so. Sunny Akani was famously unlucky and Stephen Maguire threw away more frames yesterday than the two he lost by.
It hasn't been anything like the vintage displays Ronnie produced in the English Open and Shanghai Masters. With so much competitive snooker, it is very hard for anyone to retain peak form. He could be forgiven for being a bit jaded and that certainly looked the case during the Akani match, when playing several inexplicably poor shots.
Murphy is leagues ahead of anyone he's faced so far and highly liable to take his chances. Every top snooker player is ultimately defined by their record in majors. By winning the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters once each, he's earned a place among the elite but has fallen just short against the likes of O'Sullivan and Selby more often that not. Today's match represents a golden opportunity to close that gap.
Back Shaun Murphy 4u @ [2.92]
2017 UK Snooker P/L:
Stakes: 72.5 units
Returns: 79.7 units
P/L: +7.2 units