“If you poll the top 500 tennis guys in the world, about 499 are going to say Roger. The only one who won’t is Roger himself because he’s too nice about it.”
The above is a quote from former professional tennis player James Blake, speaking on the attitude of sporting phenomenon, Roger Federer.
Federer is listed, along with Steve Davis, as one of 2005 World Snooker Champion Shaun Murphy’s idols and if this quote is to be believed then he shares similarities in personality with the Swiss great.
Talk to Murphy for 10 minutes – I was lucky enough to get 30 – and you will realise what a truly humble character the Northamptonshire-born potter is. For the record, I have no doubt he would have chatted for three hours had it been my request.
Murphy has recently relocated to Nottingham due to his partner, Elaine, moving jobs and it is a move which he has embraced.
He said: “My partner Elaine got a new job at Nottingham Trent University so it meant moving down here, and we have settled in really well – I know the area a little bit from when I was younger playing in the junior tournaments so that has helped.”
The couple previously resided in Manchester but are now both settled in the East Midlands.
Murphy continued: “As a snooker player we have travelled a lot due to my job so it was only fair that on this occasion we moved due to Elaine’s.
“It can take some time to get accustomed to an are,a finding new restaurants and going to new shops but it has gone fairly well.”
Instead of finding a club to practice in local to his new area of residence, Shaun has brought the snooker table to his home and practices on his own table.
He does, however ,appreciate the value of having the odd knock with some of his rival counterparts who are based in the Midlands area.
“The good thing about being in this area is there are plenty of options should I wish to have a game with someone.” said Murphy.
“Michael Holt is from these parts and is probably one of the best snooker players Nottingham has produced, and then there is Anthony Hamilton, although I am not sure Anthony lives in the area any more.
“Further afield down in Leicester you have Mark Selby, Tom Ford and Ben Woollaston, who are all very good professionals.”
However, Shaun does concede that at his stage in his career he can be often found practising on his own.
He continued: “I think having a practice with another pro is better for the younger players to be honest, it is good for their learning and development. These days I prefer to just practice on my own in my own environment where I feel comfortable.”
His passion towards the game of snooker is unrivalled and the best bit is he would much rather find time to praise others rather than give his own ego a boost.
“Stuart’s name was on the trophy from early on in the tournament I thought. The funny thing is, had he not been playing me in the final I would have been sat at home rooting for him to win,” said Murphy on the recent World Championship Final, in which he was beaten 18-15 by Stuart Bingham.
“You only have to look at the players that Stuart beat. A qualifier in the first round, Graeme Dott in the second, who is a former world champion, Ronnie in the quarters - a five-time world champion - Judd, who is a world champion in the making in the semis and then myself in the final.
“With those results it shows he was the best player over the entire tournament.”
Murphy is clearly gutted he wasn’t able to add to the one world title which he won a decade ago but that hasn’t extinguished his desire to continue his quest for a second.
“In the future I would love to add another world title to my CV but then I would also love to pick up some of the titles that I haven’t won yet,” he said.
“I haven’t done too well in China in the past and that is something I would love to be able to crack.”
Also, losing the bigger matches at the top events won’t ever alter Murphy’s gracious stance on defeat. He receives a lot of good press for the way in which he conducts himself post-match and it is a testament to the character of the man.
Murphy said: “It isn’t always about how you are when you win as a sportsperson but also means a lot to me to be a good loser.
“Being dignified in defeat isn’t always easy when you lose the bigger events, but it is really important to say the right things at the right times. You have to accept defeat and become a better player from the experience.”
Ever since he completed his Triple Crown ambitions when he won the Masters back in January, Murphy says that some of the pressure he had placed on himself has now been lifted and that some of his professional goals will need to be reassessed.
The 32-year-old actually claims that winning the invite-only event back in January was his best tournament win and not his World Championship success of 2005 as people often presume.
Shaun had waited six-and-a-half long years to achieve his goal after winning the UK Championship back in 2008.
He said: “I worked for six years to try to tick the Masters off to complete the ‘big three’ and to be honest I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it.
“To be honest I would have to say the Masters was a big win for me and probably my favourite, purely because it secured the Triple Crown, and not too many players can claim they have done that.
“The pressure you put yourself under is the worst sort and I was desperate to win the Masters.
“Also, the tournament is a showcase for the top 16 players in the world. It is invite only and it carries a lot of prestige with it. That is special.”
Murphy gets a lot of good press for his cue action and recently Steve Davis claimed it was ‘the best he had ever seen’. Shaun will no doubt appreciate that comment from a man he has looked up to for so long.
“Steve Davis is someone who I have seen to be a role model for a long time now and what he has done for the game is fantastic,” Shaun said with a real fondness towards the snooker legend in his voice.
“He is very much Mr Snooker these days and what he is doing to promote the game now is really something remarkable.”
Despite the high-profile praise from various ex-professionals Murphy says his style of play is something he has worked on since a young age and is not necessarily all about a natural talent.
Murphy continued: “To have a good cue action you need to have good fundamentals, and if you can get that right then you’re halfway there.
“My dad knew the game inside out. Despite only playing socially he studied the game in detail beyond belief.
“From the age of eight all the way through to when I turned professional at 15, we had worked together on getting the cue going through the ball in the proper way.
Murphy kicks off his 2015/16 season when he takes on Ali Carter in the first round of the Australian Goldfields Open which begins on 29th June.
A tournament played on the other side of the world is indicative of just how far the game of professional snooker has been enhanced over the last five years.
“There are tournaments constantly at present and snooker is in such a great place at the moment,” Murphy said with an excited tone in his voice.
“We play all over the world and it really is a fantastic time to be a professional player at the moment.
“I get people coming up to me in the street and they say ‘oh, there isn’t much snooker around at the moment’, but there really is and there are so many tournaments now and it’s great.
“Barry (Hearn) and his staff deserve a lot of credit for how they have revamped the schedule and I think the tour is now so much better for their input.”
Despite his devoted attitude towards his career, Murphy does find time to kick back and enjoy some of the finer things in life.
He plans to marry his partner Elaine in the future having recently made her his fiancé and, as most sportsman do, enjoys a round of golf where he plays off an impressive handicap of five.
Quite unusually he also plays the piano and says he is currently in the process of learning some new material. Murphy also keeps up his commitments in assisting with the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital charity and can often be found taking part in fundraisers for the charity – something which means a great deal to him.
One of the admirable gestures he does for their cause is give them £100 every time he hits a break of 100 or more.
The dedicated potter has plenty of years left ahead of him on the green baize and currently sits on 15 career titles, whilst occupying a lofty number six in the world rankings.
Although he probably won’t match the amount of titles his idol Federer has won, it certainly won’t be down to the lack of trying for Murphy.