Shaun Murphy reacted angrily after crashing out of the first round of the UK Championship saying his 6-5 defeat to Si Jiahui was “not fair” and that amateurs should not be allowed to play in professional tournaments.
Murphy – winner of the tournament in 2008 and runner-up at the world championship earlier this year – fought back to force a decider against the 19-year-old Si, who fell off the main tour at the end of last season, but then spurned an opportunity to finally seal the match. The loss sparked a rancorous reaction rarely seen at the elite levels of professional sport.
“I am going to sound like a grumpy old man but that young man shouldn’t be in the tournament,” Murphy told BBC Radio 5 Live in a splenetic rant following his early exit at the hands of the Chinese teenager. “It is not fair, it is not right.”
He continued: “I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building. I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments. This is our livelihood. This is our living. We are self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.
“The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it is their livelihood, too. It is wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who is not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am. He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. It is not fair, it is not right.
“I am not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory. Amateurs should not be allowed in professional tournaments, the end. This is our livelihood. This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I have earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that. He shouldn’t be on the table.”
Si had earlier missed a golden chance himself to wrap up what would have been a comfortable 6-1 win after clawing back three snookers required only to then miss the blue with victory seemingly in sight.
Murphy, world champion in 2005, continued his momentum to mount a fine recovery with breaks of 60, 87 and 85 to fight back and level the match in York at 5-5. The deciding frame saw a re-rack before Si produced a half-century break only to allow Murphy back to the table, who showed his experience to build a run of 44 and put pressure back on the Chinese teenager.
Si then left the final two reds open, and Murphy sank a long pot – only to then inexplicably miss the blue which handed the teenager an unexpected opportunity to finally wrap up a memorable victory just before midnight.
After the match Murphy responded to criticism and abuse on social media by saying that he had been hampered by injury. “I played carrying a severe injury and every shot was in pain,” he wrote on Instagram. “But I still tried my best. I still turned up, and I very nearly won. I still posed for pictures and signed autographs backstage and for people at [the] stage door. Unfortunately I lost.”
Earlier, the three-time UK champion John Higgins fired two centuries in the final three frames to wrap up a 6-1 win over Michael Georgiou. Kyren Wilson fired a break of 110 as he joined Higgins in the second round with a 6-2 win over Soheil Vahedi.