MARK ALLEN had it right. “He’s the worst person to go 3-0 up against,” he said after relinquishing this lead to Mark Selby, who beat him 4-3 to win the Riga Open, the first professional tournament staged in Latvia, on Sunday night.
Selby, the reigning world champion, once again responded when in adversity, after failing to settle early on. He returns as world no.1 having been overtaken by Neil Robertson last month.
Allen had made a stellar 56 clearance to win the second frame and was good value for his 3-0 lead, with Selby struggling. But with the imminent prospect of defeat a reality, he came to life, comfortably winning the fourth frame and making 100 in the fifth.
At 3-3 he was favourite but Allen, in trouble after Selby’s good safety, executed a superb plant from distance and made 33 before missing a tough red using the rest.
Selby stepped in and, aided by some tough pots late on, got to 63 to lead by 30 with 27 remaining. He put himself under it by missing a straightforward yellow but Allen was unable to extract the required penalty points.
So another successful week for Mark Selby, picking up a trophy just two tournaments on from his Crucible triumph in May.
There’s extra focus and attention on a world champion, particularly a first time winner, but Selby, though not immune from pressure, does not put himself under undue stress. His great secret is quite simple: he enjoys playing. He loves snooker. He likes being a professional.
His ability to shrug off disappointments that would leave many other players shaking their heads in frustration is one of his great strengths, allied to his obvious on-table skills.
Allen deserves credit as well for his gracious reaction to defeat, doubly disappointing as it would have got him into the Champion of Champions tournament.
It’s hard to see how this new Riga event could have gone any better. Aside from the quality of snooker on show the attendances were considerable. You never really know how things will go in a new territory but you have to dip the toe in the water to find out and World Snooker will surely be very satisfied with the weekend. The players as well seemed to enjoy Riga, with its historic buildings and friendly vibe.
There were, inevitably, teething problems, not least a leak in the roof on Saturday. Spare a thought for Adam Duffy, who led Kurt Maflin 3-1 and 50-6 when the water started pouring in.
They moved to another table and the balls were positioned as closely as possible to their original spots but the psychology of the match changed and Maflin came back to win 4-3.
In the end, though, nobody could rain on Mark Selby’s parade. It’s a long season but the early signs are that it could be a productive one for the world champion.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.