Shaun Murphy admits he was in a “very dark place” after losing the final of last year’s World Snooker Championship - and can’t wait to get back to the Crucible and aim to go one better.
Murphy, the 2005 champion, lost 18-15 to Stuart Bingham last May, as Bingham beat Graeme Dott, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump to seal a fairytale first Crucible crown.
And Murphy, who was based in Rotherham when he won the world title but now lives in Melton Mowbray, said: “Last year ended on a sour note for me, coming so close to my second title.
“But I have been looking forward to coming back ever since. Sheffield is still the biggest part of the snooker calendar, without a doubt.
“Last year, losing in the final... I’m not sure you ever really get over that. You just change your perspective on it, look back in a different way.
“The true disappointment didn’t hit me until weeks after. In the days after, I was disappointed and got over it a bit... we had the awards dinner and everyone was jovial, saying I’d had a good year by winning the Masters and finishing runner-up in the German Masters
“It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that the fact I’d lost really kicked in. I didn’t leave the house for weeks, and went into a really dark place. I didn’t like it.
“It made me realise that you don’t play for second place, and none of us just want to “do well”. I want to win and to get so close - just three frames short - was very difficult to take.
“But I have learnt to live with it, and I am always very thankful of the support I get here.
“There are people who I don’t know, but come to support me every year. Hopefully I can put on a good show for them.”
Murphy kicks off his 2016 Crucible title bid this afternoon, against Scot Anthony McGill, in a re-run of last year’s quarter-final.
“I don’t think Anthony has had the best of seasons since doing so well here last year,” Murphy added.
“That’s often the case. You ride the crest of a wave, World Championship quarter-finalist, and are talked about as a first-time winner.
“Then it’s about finding the adrenaline for the rest of the year. But he’s a massive danger.
“The fans are going to get the best tournament they have ever seen; every single match could be a final of an event somewhere in the world.
“I just hope I am in it long enough to have a laugh with them along the way.”
Murphy is the closest Sheffield has come to a home-grown winner, and still no Steel City-born star has ever played at the Crucible in the World Championship.
“I don’t understand why there hasn’t been more top home players,” 1986 world champion Joe Johnson said.
“We used to have a fantastic amateur game, strength in the roots of the game.
“We don’t seem to have that now, we miss the people who used to run the amateur game, to help promote it.
“The talent is not there, because the gras roots system isn’t there.
“Snooker used to have a lot of officials who did the hard work for nothing.
“A lot of those people have passed away, and people aren’t willing to do it for free like the old guys. They did it for the love of the sport. It’s difficult.
“When we got involved in snooker there was no money it, so we had to do it for love. Now, it’s all money-orientated.”