Mark Selby dedicates World title to late father
The Leicester cueman became the first player to defeat Ronnie O’Sullivan in a Crucible final
Mark Selby celebrates after winning the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships at The Crucible, Sheffield.Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Mark Selby dedicated Crucible glory to his late father after stunning Ronnie O’Sullivan with one of the greatest snooker comebacks.
The 30-year-old Leicester cueman’s tenacity and sheer appetite for the task was rewarded with a first World Championship title, as he triumphed 18-14 and finished with a flourish.
The great ‘Grinder’ of the sport, Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, was on hand to witness Selby gnaw at O’Sullivan’s supreme confidence, wearing down the man who was chasing a third successive world title, and sixth of his career.
Selby had been 8-3 and 10-5 behind and looked primed to become another O’Sullivan victim in Sheffield, but the way he turned around the match hinted he could make this a regular thing.
He crucially took the last two frames of Sunday evening’s session, and hit the front for the first time when sweeping all four before the interval on Monday afternoon.
Victory was clinched with an exceptional clearance of the colours, Selby holding his nerve as though it was he who had won this title five times in the past.
He punched the air in delight, the man who goes to world number one after his win feeling the emotion before laying his hands on the trophy for the first time.
“My father died of cancer when I was 16, two months before turning professional, and his last words to me were, ‘I want you to be world champion’. That’s for him,” Selby said.
“There’s no better feeling. Whether you win it once or more than once, no-one can take it away from me. It’s not sunk in yet. It’s amazing really. I’m over the moon.
“To come out trailing 10-7 yesterday I felt like I was winning 10-7. I was physically and mentally tired yesterday. I felt I hadn’t really turned up.
“Ronnie got back to 15-14 and asked the question but I probably played my best snooker of the tournament in the final three frames. I felt relaxed at the end. I needed to try to attack him and from 15-14 I did.”
When it came down to a slightly tricky black for the title, Selby recalled: “I was just telling myself, ‘Trust yourself, do all the basics right’ and I managed to pot it.”
O’Sullivan had won 14 matches in a row at the Crucible, taking the 2012 and 2013 titles and charging to another final this year.
But where he had won each of those previous five finals, in Selby he struck upon an opponent who importantly believed he could succeed where John Higgins, Graeme Dott, Ali Carter — twice — and Barry Hawkins all fell short.
“That’s the nature of the sport. If you sign up to be a top snooker player you accept the losses with the wins. You can’t have it all your own way all the time,” O’Sullivan said.
“Losing is part of the sport you have to accept. I’ll have to come back and try to go one better next time.”
Reflecting on where it went wrong, O’Sullivan added: “There were lots of long safety bouts and I got dragged into it. I was finding it hard to get momentum together. At times I felt numb out there because I was in my chair for long periods of time.
“With Mark, you can never count him out. He’s a player who seems to thrive when he’s behind. He’s a modern-day Cliff Thorburn, he’s a winner, and you know what you’re up against.
“He’s certainly got the game to win many more world titles if he wants to. I’d love to win more world titles but to have won five is great, I’ve got no complaints. I’m proud of my performance really.”
Selby had lost in the finals of the UK Championship and Masters already this season, so a hat-trick of such defeats in the tournaments that make up snooker’s triple crown would have been tough to bear.
In the opening 11 frames, his highest break was a mere 42, and until he reaped a total clearance of 127 in the 30th frame his best was 74, contrasting with O’Sullivan’s three centuries.
The new champion was chiselling out chances but needing two, three or four to win frames, but it was telling that O’Sullivan was presenting him with the openings.
It was far from a classic O’Sullivan performance, with the 38-year-old looking deflated a long time before Selby passed the winning post.
In his recent book, O’Sullivan branded Selby a snooker ‘torturer’, and the drip, drip, drip of pressure, hard match play, and pedestrian pace added up to agony for a man with a history of struggling when such factors are pieced together by such a high-class opponent.