Masters champion keen to avoid slipping up at Alexandra Palace

Shaun Murphy is anticipating a very special moment when he returns to Alexandra Palace this weekend as the reigning Dafabet Masters Snooker champion.

The 33-year-old from Nottingham, nicknamed ‘The Magician’, starts his defence of the title he won 12 months ago in the tournament opener against Mark Allen on Sunday at 1pm.

Murphy became the 10th player to complete snooker’s unique triple crown, which also includes the World Championship and UK Championship, after trouncing Australian Neil Robertson by 10 frames to 2 to reverse his defeat in the 2012 final.

And Murphy, who went on to lose the World Championship final to Stuart Bingham in May, is looking forward to Sunday, when he will be introduced to the main stage at the West Hall part of Ally Pally as the current Masters champion.

“It was so special to win that Masters tournament and complete the triple crown that everyone has gone on about for so long,” he said.

“I know what having the trophy at home has done to me over the last few months. Seeing it every day, remembering it, watching little videos on YouTube, being introduced into all the arenas around the world as the current Masters champion, I know how that has made me feel.

“So I can only imagine how it will feel walking down those steps in that Alexandra Palace arena. You know, those steps are steeper than they look and we always have one eye on not falling over.

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“I always thought we should have some sort of slide into the arena but, as long I make it down those steps without tripping over, I’ll be happy!”

The winner will face Barry Hawkins or Joe Perry, who play on Monday at 7pm – and, if he progresses to the last four, Murphy could then face crowd favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan.

‘The Rocket’ from Chigwell bids for his sixth Masters crown in his long- awaited return to the big televised stage against two-time winner Mark Williams on Tuesday in front of a near sell-out crowd.

If O’Sullivan can overcome the Welshman, he will face either current world No 1 Mark Selby or Ricky Walden in the quarter-final, which takes place two days later.

Other first round ties of interest include world champion Bingham facing China’s Ding Junhui on Sunday, while Robertson, last year’s beaten finalist, takes on Hong Kong’s Marcu Fu on Wednesday.

The tournament goes right through to finals day on Sunday January 17 and tickets for all sessions are available, either by visiting Alexandra Palace Box Office in person or by calling 0871 620 7052.

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