You’re world champion for the first time. That’s the good news. But how easy is it to adjust to life as winner of snooker’s premier event?
Traditionally there are far more demands on your time with an increased amount of interviews and personal appearances and, to put it bluntly, other players who are now far more determined to beat you and land the scalp of the world champion.
It’s well documented that no first time winner of the World Championship at the Crucible has successfully defended their title. But more interesting is how they have done in the season as a whole.
Over the years there have been a varying number of tournaments played each season but this isn’t really the point. You would expect the world champion, buoyed by the confidence of having won at the Crucible, to thrive, possibly even dominate. The evidence suggests the opposite.
Remember, this is first time winners, players whose lives have suddenly changed. We’ve taken a look at every first time winner of the world title for the last 25 years to see how they did.
Stephen Hendry was by far the most successful in his maiden season as world champion. He won five ranking titles, plus the Masters, plus the Scottish Masters, Matchroom League and the doubles event with Mike Hallett at the World Masters. So nine titles in total, a great haul under any circumstances.
Next best in this period was John Higgins in 1998/99. He won five titles, including the UK Championship and the Masters.
The rest largely struggled. O’Sullivan won the UK Championship and Premier League but did not reach another final.
Mark Williams, who had been in eight finals, winning three titles, the season he became world champion, won only one title during the campaign in which he reigned.
John Parrott won two, both ranking titles, one of which was the UK Championship, while Ken Doherty also won two, albeit non-ranking.
Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson won one ranking title apiece. Peter Ebdon and Shaun Murphy failed to capture any silverware, although Murphy was runner-up in the Welsh Open.
Between them, these players have been responsible for winning many, many titles since but the above stats underline that first time world champions have had to deal with increased attention and expectations, including those they have placed on themselves.
And of course all through the season there is the build-up to the World Championship itself, increased talk of the so-called ‘Crucible curse’ and ever growing pressure.
Step forward Mark Selby. He is a level-headed character, not usually one to fret about things. But there is nothing to prepare him for the unique situation of being world champion.
Selby has more tournaments in which to play than those who came before him, an advantage of sorts, but it will be interesting to see if he can win anything early on in the campaign or whether it will take time to adjust.
Every time he is introduced into an arena – and that will be many times – he will be reminded he is world champion. This is both music to the ears and an extra dollop of pressure placed on his shoulders.
TITLES WON BY FIRST TIME WORLD CHAMPIONS SINCE 1990
Stephen Hendry (1990/91): 9 – Scottish Masters; Grand Prix; Asian Open; Dubai Classic; UK Championship; World Masters doubles (with Mike Hallett); Masters; British Open; Matchroom League
John Parrott (1991/92): 2 – Dubai Classic; UK Championship
Ken Doherty (1997/98): 2 – Malta Grand Prix; European League (Doherty was also awarded the Irish Masters title after Ronnie O’Sullivan failed a drugs test)
John Higgins (1998/99): 5 – UK Championship; Masters; Charity Challenge; China International; Premier League
Mark Williams (2000/01): 1 – Grand Prix
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2001/02): 2 – UK Championship; Premier League
Peter Ebdon (2002/03): 0
Shaun Murphy (2005/06): 0
Graeme Dott (2006/07): 1 – China Open
Neil Robertson (2010/11) 1 – World Open
Photographs by Monique Limbos.