Shaun Murphy has revealed how he suffered "extremely dark days" during the World Snooker Tour's enforced move behind closed doors in Milton Keynes over the past eight months.
The 2005 world champion opened up on the personal problems he has faced during the pandemic after a rousing 13-7 win over Masters champion Yan Bingtao in the last 16 saw him secure a quarter-final meeting with world number one Judd Trump.
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Murphy has reached the last eight stage for the first time since losing the 2015 final 18-15 to Stuart Bingham and feels the return of an audience under strict Covid-19 testing guidelines at the Crucible Theatre has been crucial in lifting his mental mood.
It is the first time snooker fans have been allowed access to any tournament since the delayed 44th World Championship was staged in Sheffield last August.
"Just as a bloke, I've really struggled in the last 12 months mentally," admitted Murphy, whose delightful 144 run against Yan is the highest break of the event so far.
There have been some extremely dark days trapped in isolation in a hotel in Milton Keynes. There have been some very tough times.
"Some quite difficult phone calls home. I've been terrible company when I have been at home. I've been moody, grumpy, irritable..more than usual and it has shown.
"I've come here with a renewed gratitude for the position that I'm in as a sportsman and for each and every one of the ticket purchasers who have made the effort to come.
"It is not simple or straightforward to be here this week. I'm grateful that they've all turned up and it has really added something to my game."
Murphy's best run of a relatively modest campaign was a 6-3 defeat to Mark Selby in the semi-finals of the European Masters, but he has also reached the quarter-finals at the Masters and Welsh Open.
He was only 22 when his prodigious long game helped him lift the world title as a 150-1 outsider with an 18-16 win over Matthew Stevens 16 years ago and hopes for a similar outcome when he faces tournament favourite Trump on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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“I’m really excited about it to be honest," added the world number seven. "If you are going to win tournaments like this, they all have to get knocked out at some stage. It may as well be in the next two days.
“Judd looks like somebody who is building throughout the event. That is what the greats always did in the 90s and early 2000s. For me, I hope that I’m able to withstand the barrage of attack that is likely to come.
"My long game has always been the big driver in my locker. It has never been a problem for me..I feel like I'm a handful for anyone."
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