MARK SELBY became world champion for the first time with a sensational finish against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Monday night.
Selby came from 10-7 down overnight to beat O’Sullivan 18-14 and land the record £300,000 first prize.
The 30 year-old from Leicester made breaks of 127 and 87 to move from 15-14 to 17-14 and made a stunning clearance from last red to black to secure the title and complete the greatest triumph of his professional career, as five times champion O’Sullivan lost his first match at the Crucible in three years.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Selby said. “It’s amazing really. To play Ronnie in the final was a dream come true because to win the world title you want him in it. He’s one of the best front-runners in the game. He was 8-3 and I wasn’t taking my chances but I kept digging in and nicking a few frames. To get out 10-7 last night I felt like I was winning 10-7.
“I was physically and mentally tired yesterday. Ronnie outplayed me but I was still only 10-7 behind. To get out like that I thought with a good night’s sleep and win the first session 3-1 I’m back in the game, and I managed to win it 4-0.”
Selby’s father passed away from cancer when he was 16 and taking his first steps as a professional and was in his thoughts as he sank the final black.
“He died two months before I turned professional. His last words to me were that he wanted me to become world champion. I said I will do one day, it’s just a matter of when not if. Thankfully that day has come,
“There have been a lot of people in my life who have helped me. Willie Thorne’s brother, Malcolm, spotted me when I went in the club, put me on the right track and sponsored me for a few years. I’m sure he was looking down on me smiling.”
O’Sullivan bossed much of the first day of the final, with Selby failing to make a half century break until frame 11.
But from 10-5 down, Selby threw himself an overnight lifeline by winning the last two frames of the second session to resume trailing only 10-7.
O’Sullivan led 32-0 in the first frame of the day but went in-off and Selby compiled a 55 break before adding the scrappy 19th to reduce his arrears to just 10-9. The Leicester cueist then made his highest break of the match so far, 74, to draw level after O’Sullivan had missed a red at short range.
The last frame before the interval saw a lengthy battle on the final red. O’Sullivan potted but needed the black in addition and failed to obtain position on it. He attempted a low percentage double, missed and Selby did enough to lead the match for the first time at 11-10.
The first frame back after the interval was an epic struggle, with both players missing balls as the unique Crucible pressure came to bear. O’Sullivan initially missed the last red, attempting to cut it back, and later missed the yellow from distance. A series of near comical misses on the green followed before O’Sullivan stroked it in to leave Selby requiring snookers, to end a winning run of six successive frames by the world no.3.
The session was curtailed two frames early after the last one lasted 49 minutes, with an extraordinarily dramatic battle on the colours. O’Sullivan seemed to have won it when he potted brown and blue but missed a straightforward pink to the left middle, frame ball. Selby potted it and added the black to carry a narrow lead into the evening.
O’Sullivan began the final session with a 100 exactly but Selby won three on the spin to lead 15-12 at the interval. O’Sullivan won the next in two visits and made a great clearance in frame 29, potting the yellow down the side cushion to keep it going.
But Selby was not to be denied and saved his best for last to achieve every snooker player’s dream, becoming the 24th man to win the world professional title.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.