Shaun Murphy has told Eurosport that there is a buzz amongst the players ahead of the Welsh Open.
Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena has played home to snooker through the course of the coronavirus pandemic in the 2021 season, but the Welsh Open is taking place in its homeland.
Celtic Manor in Newport will host the event, which gets underway on February 15 - live on Eurosport - and the change in venue has got the juices flowing.
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“I think for a long time everyone just assumed the whole tour would be in Buckinghamshire so we are all much more excited than we should be to be doing something different,” Murphy told Eurosport.
“As the crow flies we are only going about 200 miles away but there is a buzz about the players that we are going somewhere else.
“Celtic Manor is a nice place to go so it is something we are looking forward to.
That whole Newport, Cardiff, South Wales area is a hotbed of snooker so it is kind of poignant that the Welsh Open is leading us back towards some semblance of normality."
Murphy won the event 12 months ago, defeating Kyren Wilson in the final. He was presented with the trophy by Ray Reardon, and the 38-year-old was honoured to pick up the prize from a mentor he has described as Yoda.
Murphy says players are buzzing ahead of Welsh Open
“Ray was always critical of my defensive and strategic game,” Murphy said. “I never forget our first session together at his club in Torquay. He said ‘we’ve got more to work on than I thought.’
“He took me to one side after the final with Kyren and said ‘it is so nice to see that you learned to do those things and are reaping the rewards.’
“I didn’t want to use a Star Wars analogy, but he is definitely Yoda. I am not sure which character I am, take your pick, but there was some passing of some wisdom.”
While Murphy won the world title in 2005, he has suggested his 9-1 win over Wilson was one of his most complete performances.
“I think in terms of matches I have scored heavier, made bigger breaks and played more flamboyant shots, but there was a lot on the line for me that day,” Murphy said. “Ray Reardon was there. He was a mentor for me and to have him presenting the trophy named after him was a big deal.
“In terms of how clinical I was, I punished his errors and I’d be struggling to find many games where I have done it like that in my career.”
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Murphy is hoping a return to Wales will inspire him in a season that he "can't wait to see the back of".
"I won’t get a better opportunity in reliving past memories,” Murphy said. “You get that feeling of inspiration.
In my mind I'd written this season off. I can't wait to see the back of this season.
“Everything I love about snooker has been taken away from me. I just want normality to come back and those things that made snooker the game I fell in love with.”
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