Former world champion Shaun Murphy has blown his chance of a morale-boosting tournament victory after losing to Chinese outsider Lu Ning at the Gibraltar Open.
The 2005 World Champion, who recently admitted that his game was not where it needs to be, enjoyed a walkover in round one as former world number four Matthew Stevens withdrew, before beating another Welsh veteran Dominic Dale 4-2.
England’s Murphy went into the clash as a strong favourite as he sits 66 places above his 25-year-old opponent in the world rankings but left on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline.
He trailed 2-0 but compiled breaks of 83 and 68 to level affairs, although that was as good as it got for ‘The Magician’, who could only sit and watch as the Far East star enjoyed runs of 85 and 115 to progress to round four.
Murphy has been struggling of late and his run to the final of the German Masters back in December only punctuated a series of early exits. Consequently, he is priced at 51.00 to win the upcoming World Championship, with Ronnie O’Sullivan the 3.60 favourite to claim a sixth Crucible title in Sheffield.
Waiting next for Lu is amateur Oliver Brown, who has beaten Michael Holt, 14th seed Jimmy Robertson and 24-year-old Welshman Jamie Clarke.
Brown, from Dronfield in Derbyshire, is also 24 and the man nicknamed ‘Sugar’ will now see this as a great opportunity to go deep in an event to gain some vital experience of playing against professionals.