Coming up to 1am over in Shanghai Mark Selby has clinched his second full ranking event title with a dramatic 10-9 victory against Mark Williams. In doing so Selby also becomes the ninth ever player to reached the summit of the world rankings. Click below for more…
EDIT: Also click here for Mark Williams’ quotes following the match
It feels like an awful long time ago now but some five hours previously the players resumed with the score poised at 5-4 to Mark Selby following a high-quality afternoon session and it was the Jester who got off to the stronger start, advancing to 6-4 following a missed black from Williams when attempting to bring the final red into play.
Following a second re-rack of the match in frame 11 however we were to see the first of many frames during the session which could easily have gone either way as first Williams made 46 before Selby looked like snatching it to lead by three frames. Selby though unbelievably missed the green from the final red before Williams then got a kick on the yellow from its spot. There was however to be a further twist as Selby then again missed the green to allow Williams to reduce his deficit to 5-6.
Frame 12 proved to be the first of a number of protracted frames as the reds somehow found their way to the bottom cushion behind the black spot. Selby by this stage was beginning to show signs of weakness and playing less positively than he had earlier in the tournament, could only share the next two frames as the scoreline moved to 7-6 at the mid-session interval.
Could Selby rediscover his poise during the 15 minute break? The answer looked to be no as a miss on an admittedly very difficult red to the right-centre paved the way for 7-7 after a gruelling 14th frame, while a snooker behind the black following a shot to nothing double on the final red helped Williams into an 8-7 lead.
Following a break of 88, comfortably the highest break of the session, Mark Williams moved one away from the title at 9-7 and with Selby having been out of sorts for a couple of hours looked to be on course to leave Selby waiting a little longer for that elusive second ranking event success. As Selby played an aggressive safety to open up the reds, only for Williams to pot one and then snooker him behind the brown, it looked as though the final would be over in a matter of minutes.
Then however came a moment of controversy and ultimately the turning point of the match as Mark Selby elected to play a ‘hit and hope’ shot and managed to leave the balls relatively safe. Mark Williams however appeared to believe that Selby had hit the pink first, while referee Eirian Williams believed that he had hit the red. After a long delay and several viewings of a slow motion replay, Eirian decided that it was the red and following a miss from Williams, Selby suddenly switched on and with an excellent green was to close the gap to 9-8.
Click here to view the incident in question
In truth Williams (Mark that is), was not to be the same player from this point and with recent defeats to John Higgins and Stuart Bingham from winning positions in ranking finals fresh in the memory there was a growing sense of inevitability about the outcome as the match progressed. This was almost confirmed as Williams missed what was effectively a simple match ball green in frame 18 and although there may or may not have been a kick, somehow there was a sense that we had seen this story before.
The decider proved to be more one-sided and as Mark swiped at the cueball when in a snooker it was evident that mentally he had gone and as he conceded the match while Selby was on the winning break he had the look of a man who just wanted to be out of the arena.
Overall then another thrilling final full of drama, controversy and while the second session did not contain the breaks that might have been expected, it had all of the tension and pressure of a Crucible classic, not to mention at times some excellent safety play from both.
As far as the major talking point is concerned my own view is that while it is impossible to be sure, I think that the cue ball did hit the red first and that therefore the correct decision was reached, however according to some posts on Twitter it would appear that Mark Williams was far from happy post-match with the outcome of that particular incident.
I hope however that does not detract from Mark Selby’s success as despite a serious mid-match wobble this evening once again came through when it mattered to take an overdue second ranking event title and confirm that he will now move up to world number one for the first time at the October seedings revision if not sooner.
For a player who really I see as being fairly uncontroversial, Mark Selby does sure divide opinion amongst some fans as was evident in the live chat earlier on during the final but whatever you think of him he is undoubtedly one of the top players in the world at the moment. His performance today might not have been enough to dispel the suspicion that he has a tendency to play too negatively at times during the big matches but the result is nevertheless a significant one for him and will hopefully give him the confidence going forward from here.
What of Williams however who has now lost arguably four major matches that he could have won during the past nine months from a winning position? Yesterday I posed the question as to whether there were doubts over his mental fortitude as Neil Robertson launched a comeback during their semi-final to lead 5-4 but any such doubts were comprehensively answered by a great last couple of frames from the Welshman.
It is inevitable however that fresh questions will now be asked and it will be interesting to see how he fares the next time he is in such a position.
Next stop though – Brazil!