FOCUS ON...MARK SELBY
Mark Selby won one of the matches of last season when he once again demonstrated his ability to deal with pressure in high stakes situations.
Selby’s recovery from 9-6 down to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 and land a second Wembley Masters title was proof of his big match temperament.
A second comeback against O’Sullivan in the Crucible quarter-finals a couple of months later further enhanced this reputation.
Selby’s problem isn’t the big occasions. Quite the opposite, in fact: he seems to struggle in earlier rounds, which helps to explain why, for a second successive season, he went down the rankings.
Two years ago the Leicester man was the world no.4. He slipped to seventh and is now ninth.
The new rankings system affords him the chance to rise up quicker than before but if he endures the same start to the current campaign as he did to the one just gone he’ll continue his slide.
Then again, here are the six players he lost to in ranking events last season: Stuart Bingham, Ken Doherty, O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Ding Junhui and Graeme Dott. No shame in any of those defeats.
Also, he suffered from the Bahrain Championship fiasco of 2008 but – and isn’t it funny how things turn out? – he will end up benefiting from it because when the points come to be dropped later in the year he won’t have any to lose.
But why is it he still only has one ranking title to his name? Well, the obvious reason is that there have been so few of late and the standard is such that winning one is an achievement in itself.
Even so, there is currently a gap between his reputation with his fellow players – they regard him as one of the very best of the current era – and his record of achievement in ranking events.
I’m certain this will change and it will probably change this season. I believe Selby is a good enough player to be world champion.
Furthermore, I don’t believe he merits the criticism he sometimes gets for being slow. He isn’t slow. If you think he is, dig out a video of some of snooker’s proper grinders from years gone by.
He was perfectly comfortable with the 25 second per shot time limit in the Premier League two years ago, where he reached the final, and was unlucky not to be invited back last season. He’s in it this year and must be a big favourite to reach the play-offs because, again, the tournament has a big match feel to it due to the crowds and general atmosphere.
Selby may have employed a tactical game to his benefit at times. So what? Why shouldn’t he? It’s a perfectly acceptable game plan to play to your own strengths rather than those of your opponent.
The point is, he can switch between attack and defence with deadly effect in a similar vein to Higgins.
His break-building skills are evident for all to see. He has twice compiled five centuries in a match at the Crucible. The only others players to do this more than once are Stephen Hendry, Higgins and O’Sullivan.
In winning the PTC event yesterday he made a total of eight century breaks.
Off table, Mark is a normal, down to earth guy without pretensions. As far as I’m aware he is obliging with fans when it comes to autographs and pictures.
He makes an effort to promote himself and is - unbelievably - the only top player who regularly writes a blog for his official website (although O'Sullivan has started one in Chinese for Sohu.com).
Like most players, Selby just wants to play and, despite all the ‘Jester from Leicester’ stuff, wants to win.
I’d be amazed if he wasn’t winning major silverware this season.
Posted by Dave H at 10:00 AM