German Masters 2011: Final Preview

Today sees a battle of the Marks in Berlin as Selby takes on Williams in the best of 17 final. Can Selby so anything to upset the so far imperious run of the Welshman or will it be the Welsh Potting Machine who wins his 18th ranking event title?

Routes to the final:

Mark Williams:

R32: def A.McGill 5-1
R16: def D.Dale 5-2
QF: def J.Perry 5-1
SF: def M.Fu 6-3

Mark Selby:

R32: def N.Bond 5-1
R16: def S.Hendry 5-3
QF: def D.Junhui 5-1
SF: def G.Dott 6-4

On paper then, Williams appears to have played the better snooker on his way to the final and based on the two matches of his that I have seen so far, it is hard to argue with that. Around the table he has looked absolutely relaxed, perhaps even more so than normal, and looks to be relishing playing in front of the incredible crowds that they have managed to attract in Germany. Perhaps more ominious, on the table itself he has played some excellent snooker, scoring heavily (more so than it looks on paper due to his tendency to try to entertain the crowd rather than pursue a century break), and also making a large percentage of the long balls as was his trademark at his very peak.

All that said, Selby too has not played badly either. Against Stephen Hendry in the second round his pot success rate stood at 99% after four frames while against Ding Junhui it finished at around 96%. Far more impressive against Ding however was his tactical play and ability to take the close frames and from what I understand of his subsequent semi-final against Dott, the same very much applied there in the middle part of the match.

Against most players I would fancy Selby’s all-round game, his heavy scoring combined with his formidable safety game. Unfortunately for him however, Williams is not ‘most players’ and himself is more than comfortable in the scrappy, safety-dominated frames, whilst as he has shown this week, also being capable of making big breaks.

Another feather in the Williams cap is the head to head record, which perhaps surprisingly stands at 4-0 to the three-time world champion. One of those, the two most relevant results in my view came at the World Championship back in 2006 and the UK a couple of years later when Williams edged him 9-7. I remember being there for their clash at the Crucible which came at the last 16 stage following Selby’s shock victory against the then player of the season, John Higgins in the first round. Lightning was not to strike twice however and Selby went down 13-8 against Williams.

So turning back to 2011, who is going to win? Williams has to start as favourite for me, although if Mark can punish his errors more often than Marco Fu did last night, there is no reason why he can’t win either. Still, I’ll lean to Williams, perhaps 9-6, 9-7.