What a night it was for Mark Selby at the Crucible on Monday, standing in the arena parading not only the famous trophy but a Leicester City flag on the night the Foxes won the Premier League.
Selby, who will now also stay as world No1, the fifth season in a row he has finished on top of the pile, beat China’s Ding Junhui 18-14 in the final of the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield.
And he becomes the sixth player to have won multiple world titles at the Crucible – as well as pocketing the sport’s biggest-ever cheque of £330,000.
If Chelsea have Leicester a helping hand against Spurs, Selby’s triumph was all his own work. He exerted a stranglehold on the match early on, racing into a 6-0 lead – though Ding did hit back to stand one adrift at 8-7.
However the 29-year-old, who arrived in the UK aged just 15 and had a poor Crucible record until this year, could never quite get level.
On Monday he got as close as 11-10 down, and then two adrift at 16-14 – but Selby responded to power over the winning line.
It was a tournament and final where Selby’s grit and staying power came into its own, leaving Ding tied up in knots and unable to find his own fluent rhythm.
Neil Robertson’s prediction that Selby would “grind Ding into the dirt and win 18-14” proved prophetic.
It was qualifier Ding’s first world final at a venue where he has struggled to produce his best, despite an impressive haul of 11 ranking titles elsewhere.
And he was flying the flag for both China and Asia, who were hoping the 29-year-old could win a first world title for country and continent.
But from 6-0 down, he knew only Dennis Taylor against Steve Davis in 1985 had recovered to win from a greater deficit in a world final.
And Selby, for whom this was a 7th ranking title – he has lost a few finals too – is starting to carve out an impressive CV. Two world titles, three Masters titles, and a UK Championship win. There is a lot more to him than being a ‘Torturer’, as Ronnie O’Sullivan, his 2014 final victim, once called him.
Selby said: “It’s fantastic. It was very special to win it a couple of years ago, but it’s a great feeling to have won it twice and become a multiple champion. I felt under a lot of pressure out there, it was very hard.
“Even at 6-0 up I didn’t think the match was won, that’s not a big lead in a first to 18 match.
“I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed to win the title. Ding played some great snooker and I was just hanging on his coat tails at times.
“I have had to rely on my B game in this tournament, but fortunately that is quite good.
“Leicester have done fantastic. A big congratulations to Claudio [Ranieri] and the rest of the Leicester players.
For a small little town like us to have won the Premier League is just amazing. I can’t believe it.
“I don’t know what is more of a shock – me winning this again, or Leicester winning the title.”
Ding said: “said: “It was good to reach the final. Five years ago I reached the semi-finals, and this year I made it one step further so maybe next time I’ll win this. This experience is massive for my career.
“This season I’ve been working with Terry Griffiths as a coach and I think that I’ve improved a lot under him. My form’s still good and I think if I can stay playing like that then I will win more tournaments
“Some people in China will be disappointed, but I’m not disappointed in getting to the final. This was the first time [here] that I’ve ever felt like I’m playing at home.”
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker