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John Astley aiming to break into world's top 64 after Shaun Murphy scalp

Astley caused one of the big shocks in Preston with victory over former World Champion Murphy (credit:Getty Images)

John Astley has placed his impressive victory over Shaun Murphy at the European Masters Qualifiers in “the top two or three wins” of his career and is now looking to kick on after a strong start to the season.

The world number 67 caused one of the biggest shocks during qualifying week in Preston earlier this month – enjoying a 4-2 success against the former World champion to book his place in the final stages in Belgium.

And, although believing that his own performance could have been better, Astley is well aware of the significance of that result.

“Neither of us played really well – it’s not like I had lots of high breaks – but I played good solid snooker and going ahead early on put him under a little bit of pressure,” he told livesnooker.com.

“On paper, it’s probably up there with the top two or three wins of my career because of who I was playing and the way I handled myself in that final frame. 

“I know that I can beat anybody on my day if I play a good enough standard, but it’s nice to get a win over a big name like Shaun as it gives you a lot of belief going into any match.”

Victory over Murphy was the highlight of an impressive week for Astley, who was just one of four players ranked outside the top 64 to win all three of his matches.

The Newcastle cueist also went close to defeating Barry Hawkins at 4-0 up in the opening round of the China Championship in June, but was on the wrong end of an inspired comeback from the world number six, who eventually prevailed 5-4.

However, it was that experience that prompted Astley to put more hours in on the practice table and has subsequently reaped the rewards of his hard graft. 

“People might say it was a good game and that I played well against Barry, but I knew I should’ve won that match,” he admitted. “It really hurt for a couple of weeks and I found it quite hard to shrug off. 

“But, at the same time, it motivated me to keep working hard and I virtually practised through all of July for those qualifiers. I was really determined to give my all in every match in Preston.

“I was looking at the draws, working out where I thought I had a good chance of winning and winning all three was more than I would have expected, but it’s nice to see the hard work pay off.”

Now into his second year back on the tour, the world number 67 must finish inside the top 64 in order to maintain professional status for the 2018/19 season.

And his exploits in Preston – coupled with qualifying for the Riga Masters – have certainly set him on the way, with £10,000 already in his pocket and the season yet to reach its busier periods.

Astley, who regularly practises with fellow North-East professionals Gary Wilson, Elliot Slessor and Sam Craigie, admits he has a specific target in mind to give him the best possible chance of remaining on the tour.

It is a fortnight until the next ranking event on the calendar in the Paul Hunter Classic and, for the 28-year-old, it is now all about building on his current momentum.

“To be only two months into the season and on £10,000 already is a good start,” he added. “I’ve got a rough figure in my mind of what I need to get.

“My only target this season is to hit that number and, if I do, then I should be comfortably in the top 64.

“I’ve now got a busy couple of months and an opportunity to go further in all these tournaments, so it’s just about keeping the ball rolling.”


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John Astley aiming to break into world's top 64 after Shaun Murphy scalp

John Astley has placed his impressive victory over Shaun Murphy at the European Masters Qualifiers in “the top two or three wins” of his career and is now looking to kick on after a strong start to the season.

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