Cruise for Ebdon as Crucible curse strikes champ
[SNOOKER] The Crucible curse struck again at the 888.com world championship in Sheffield on Wednesday night when holder Shaun Murphy suffered a 13-7 defeat at the hands of the 2002 champion, Peter Ebdon.
Murphy was the 15th first-time champion at the Crucible who has failed to retain the title 12 months later but as he left the scene of his greatest triumph the crowd and Ebdon applauded him out of the arena.
He also vowed to win the championship again in the years ahead.
"I'm absolutely gutted to lose but to my mind the player who has beaten me will go on and win it.
"Peter is playing to the top of his game and it was my misfortune to come up against him," said Murphy who last year defeated the Dubai-based father of four, 17-12 in the semi-finals.
"I'll be back to watch the semi-finals and maybe the final," added Murphy. "I might as well make use of my players pass."
Murphy never recovered from losing seven of the first eight frames but Ebdon was convinced as well that when he took a 10-6 lead, the 16th frame was massive.
"Shaun would probably have fancied his chances more at 9-7 but instead I went in leading by four again," he said.
"I am better prepared for this championship than any other tournament I've played in. I think I have another world championship in me and I believe I deserve it."
Ebdon did miss two attempts at a maximum 147 and a £157,000 bonus when he failed to pot the 13th red in frame seven and the last red in frame 17.
"Don't talk to me about it, it's a nightmare," said Ebdon who in the early 1990's collected two maximums.
Hong Kong's Marco Fu defeated Irishman Ken Doherty 13-10 to reach his first world championship semi-final in which he faces Ebdon.
But the 28-year-old from Happy Valley who was educated in Canada and supports Manchester United, came out with an astonishing comment afterwards.
"I must be the only player here who is not trying to win the championship. I've come to enjoy my game and I'll stick with this type of attitude until the end," he said.
Fu, the first player from the Far East to reach the semi-finals since Thailand's James Wattana in 1993 and 1997, was prepared for a deciding frame shoot out after winning the 20th on the pink.
"That was a huge frame to win after losing the previous one in which Ken needed three snookers."
But even more decisive were the next two when Doherty first missed the brown clearing up and then a blue.
"That put me under pressure and I bottled it," said the 36-year-old Doherty, who feels he has just two more years left in which to win a second world crown.
Graeme Dott sealed a tense deciding frame and a 13-12 victory over left hander Neil Robertson to reach his second world championship semi-final.
He now comes up against the player he lost to 18-9 in the 2004 final, Ronnie O'Sullivan who completed a tense 13-11 victory over Mark Williams. Dott, 28, led 10-6 overnight but took a back seat as Robertson ran in breaks of 106, 103, 74 and 53 to force the decider.
O'Sullivan, 10-6 ahead, was level at 11-11 but he won the last two frames and in the first of them put down a break of 90 which Williams said could only have been put together by a world champion.
"Ronnie looked so confident and never looked like missing. I can't see anyone left in the championship who can beat him."
The Rocket commented: "This was a great confidence booster for me as I didn't expect to win, but we have the same respect for each other. Mark is a class act and it's a shame there had to be a loser."
O'Sullivan compiled breaks of 109, 95, 90, 79, 72, 70, 68, 56 and 55 compared to Williams 94, 78, 74, 68 and 67.