Shaun Murphy chalked up his first title since winning the World Championship two years ago after beating Ryan Day 9-4 at the Hilton Portomaso yesterday.

He owes his victory to a superb showing in the opening session during which he built a commanding 6-1 lead.

Murphy, who was adopting a new style of play in Malta, resisted a bold comeback attempt by Day as the match resumed later on in the evening before securing the Malta Cup trophy and the £30,000 first prize.

The 24-year-old was world champion in 2005 and yesterday the amiable Rotherham potter was aiming for the second major title of his career. His only other ranking final was last season's Welsh Open when he lost 9-4 to Stephen Lee.

Before the tournament, Day, 26, had not progressed beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event so he will not forget the Malta Cup 2007 quite easily. Nerves were clearly a factor for the Welshman as he failed to grasp winning opportunities in at least four of the six frames he lost in the afternoon session.

Murphy and Day had met just twice before with the head-to-head record reading one apiece.

Victory has now lifted Murphy up to fifth in the latest world rankings while Day is guaranteed to climb to 12th.

Murphy was off and running with a break of 54 to take the first frame.

Day broke down on 54 in the second and Murphy looked to be clearing up when he potted the last green, only to accidentally nudge the cue ball with the rest as it screwed back. He sportingly owned up his foul to Maltese referee Terry Camilleri.

But Day failed to take advantage as he missed an easy green and Murphy dished at the second opportunity for 2-0.

The Englishman opened frame three with a 62. Day's counter ended when he rattled the last red on 42 and left Murphy to extend his lead.

Once again in the fourth Day had his chance, but this time he missed a black off its spot at 34-30 and Murphy completed a clean sweep going into the mid-session interval.

Murphy built a 51-2 lead in the next before missing a red along the top cushion.

Day's run of 51 ended when he missed a tricky final pink, but he got the better of a lengthy safety battle to slot it into a middle pocket and get a frame on the board.

Day suffered a stroke of misfortune in the next as he went in-off in potting a red on 20 and Murphy took it in three scoring visits for 5-1.

In the last frame of the session, Murphy made 31 before missing a red to a baulk corner. Day hit back with 45 but, with the balls well placed, ran out of position and failed on a tough red to the middle. His opponent cleared smoothly with 51 to open a five-frame advantage that eventually proved unassailable.

The evening session started with Murphy and Day winning a frame each. Day had a break of 66 in frame nine but Murphy was unmoved and a break of 79 saw him edging closer to victory - 8-2.

Day was not finished yet. Some, perhaps, thought he could make a stirring fightback after pulling back to 8-4 with superb runs of 102 and 83.

However, Murphy was again unimpressed and went on to claim victory with some solid play in the 13th frame which he won 61-36.

Murphy could not hide his delight at the end of the match.

"It's a great feeling, no doubt," he said. "For the past 18 months I have been working hard to improve my game but for some reason results were not coming.

"Malta is a place I love to visit. This time, everything worked perfectly as I was playing my new game. The final was not a high-scoring one but it's good just the same.

"Surely, I will return next year to defend my title."

Murphy also had words of praise for the local enthusiasts.

"The Maltese fans are absolutely fantastic," he said.

"Every time we come here we have a great time and the warmth of the people is just amazing. The Malta Cup is one of the best-supported tournaments in the circuit and we expect that to continue for many more years."

Result
Murphy bt Day 9-4 - 73(54)-19; 73-59(54); 82(62)-42; 65-34; 51-65 (51); 89-20; 82(51)-45; 80-23; 19-67(66); 79(79)-0; 0-102(102); 0-83(83); 61-36.

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