Shaun Murphy thinks even non-snooker fans will tune in “to watch the car crash” later when former partners Mark Allen and Reanne Evans square off in the British Open later today.
Allen and Evans have been involved in a bitter legal dispute this year regarding maintenance payments for their teenage daughter, so there was no shortage of irony when the pair were drawn to play each other in best of five frames match at Leicester’s Morningside Arena.
Furthermore, the Open represents the first time players are permitted to shake hands during and after games again.
And 2005 world champion Murphy has been happy to stoke the fire, admitting his own high profile clash with Mark Selby on Tuesday, a repeat of May’s Crucible final which Selby won, will be overshadowed.
“I don’t think there is any question that our world final rematch has been upstaged,” he said.
“I will watch the other match of course – through my fingers.”
But the world No 5 did add he felt sorry for both players.
“It isn’t a good draw for either,” said the 39-year-old.
“They didn’t want that, it’s a bit of a nightmare and has put them both in a difficult position – I feel for the pair of them.
“You can understand the intrigue, I honestly don’t think there was ever been a situation like this in sport at the top level. I guess people will tune in, it is box office and has the makings of a big TV audience.
“Some people who aren’t snooker fans may tune in to watch the car crash unfold.”
To add to the recent hostility between the two 35-year-olds, at this year’s World Championships Allen insisted on having Evans thrown out of a BBC studio adjacent to his practice table while she was doing punditry work.
Allen himself is a former Masters champions while Evans is a 12-time women’s world champion, and has earned a two-year main tour card courtesy of her No 1 ranking in the female game.
And Murphy thinks both players will just be keen to get the match out of the way.
“Knowing them both for a long time it is just not a pleasant position for them to be in, and I’m sure they want it done and dusted.”
The 2021 British Open, running for the first time since 2004, will culminate on Sunday. Matches in the first four rounds will be best of five frames, best of seven for the quarter and semi finals, and then best of 11 for the final.