Shaun Murphy coasted through to the WST Pro Series last 32 with three centuries and seven wins out of seven on a super Saturday showing from the world number seven that saw him collect a maximum 21 points.
Murphy, 2005 world champion, dropped only five frames in the quickfire best-of-three frame format in winning Group A, a record bettered only by his fellow world champion Stuart Bingham, who careered to 21 points without dropping a frame in dominating Group C on Thursday.
Murphy flukes pink and then hits sensational black to win fourh frame
'Best sportsman Britain has produced' - O'Sullivan should have won more, says Virgo
Murphy enjoyed a 121 break in a 2-1 win against 1997 world champion Ken Doherty and knocks of 104 and 106 in a 2-1 victory over Heathcote in Milton Keynes.
- WST Pro Series 2021: Draw, schedule and latest results
- Perry: Why ‘new Chinese superstar’ Yan is great for snooker’s future
- 'I'm buzzing' – New dad O'Donnell progresses as Group G winner, Wilson hits 147
- 'It hurt' – Bingham puts Masters defeat behind him to sparkle at WST Pro Series
“The secret of these formats, certainly for me, is that I don’t tend to look at the situation of how you stand throughout the day. I don’t think it does you any favours," said Murphy, who lost 6-3 to Bingham in the Masters quarter-finals.
"I try 100% on every shot, in every match, each time I play. Looking at tables and working things out doesn’t really do anything for me. In fact, it just puts pressure on.
I had three centuries today, so I’ve had a good day’s workout. I think we saw how coming to the Championship League prior the Masters sharpened John Higgins up and he put in a good performance at the Masters.
"That sort of thing can benefit me. Living in Ireland, with the travel restrictions means coming here isn’t as easy for me. I’m not quite as well practised as everyone else is, I’ll stay here now, try to stay out of everyone’s way and get ready for the German Masters.”
World number 70 Louis Heathcote joined Murphy in the next phase in March by finishing in second spot with five wins from his Group A fixtures.
1994 Masters champion Alan McManus completed a 2-1 win over fellow Scot Fraser Patrick – who finished pointless after seven straight losses – in his final game of the day to match Heathcote's 15 points, but was edged out on frame difference having lost 2-0 to the world number 70 earlier in the day.
The action continues on Sunday with world number 16 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and UK Championship semi-finalist Zhou Yuelong favourites to progress from Group L.
WST Pro Series last-32 qualifiers
- Shaun Murphy
- Louis Heathcote
- Zhao Xintong
- Dominic Dale
- Stuart Bingham
- Sam Craigie
- Martin O'Donnell
- Lu Ning
- Kyren Wilson
- Sunny Akani
- Joe Perry
- Xiao Guodong
This will be the first edition of the WST Pro Series, which has arrived on the snooker scene for 2021.
The legendary Stephen Hendry was set to make his eagerly-anticipated comeback, but withdrew on Friday January 15 and was replaced by John Astley. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Mark Selby are also in the draw.
The WST Pro Series will offer up total prize money of £420,500 and will take place at Arena MK in Milton Keynes.
What is the format?
The players have been split into 16 groups of eight for the initial round-robin phase. All matches are best-of-three frames, and the top two in each group will progress to the second group stage.
The second phase will feature 32 players split into four groups of eight, and the top two in each group will then progress.
The player who finishes top of the final group of eight players will be crowned the champion of the inaugural edition of the event.
- January 18-25: Groups 1-8
- March 9-16: Groups 9-16
- March 17-20: Second group stage
- March 21: Final group
'A special place in sport' – Why World Championship must stay at Crucible
Has any pool player conquered snooker? Trump set to take plunge in Atlantic City