As we enter the last day of the World Championship 2017, and, indeed, into the last day of this season, Mark Selby is trailing John Higgins by 10-7 with two more sessions to play.
It is a surprise to many, but not to everybody. It certainly isn’t one to Ronnie going by this preview the himself and Neal Foulds shared live on facebook
John Higgins raced to a 6-2 in the first session. Mark Selby looked tired and nervous. Very unusually for him, his safety let him down, and he was missing relatively easy balls. Of course he had a very draining, tense, and intense, semi final against Ding and that must have taken a lot out of him. John Higgins had a very easy passage aganst Barry Hawkins. Mark had most of the expectations on him, as defending champion, as World n°1, and the first really dominant player since the Hendry days. And he has his own as well: there are only three players in the modern era who defended the World title, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie, and he could join them. Of course John Higgins also has expectations weighting on him: he could join Ronnie as five times World Champion.
But as it is, John leads by 10-7 as we enter the last day of this championship. Déjà-vu ? Oh yes … remember 2014? Ronnie lead 10-7 at this stage. He had been 10-5 up and cruising, only to miss a routine black and Mark Selby winning the last two frames of the session and leaving the arena with that determined look of him and a spring in his step. Well yesterday, Higgins went 10-4 up, with Selby looking all at sea, only to miss a pink in the middle. For some reason I can’t explain, I sensed immediately that this could be a turning point as Selby was in the process of stealing the frame. I wasn’t the only one: Matt Huart (@prosnookerblog) tweeted about feeling the same. And so it proved. Selby all of a sudden came back to life, he looked in control of his game again and won the last three of the session to trail only 10-7. The seeds for doubts have been planted in Higgins mind and both players demeanour as they left the arena reflected that.
All to play for today.
You can listen to the punditry by Ronnie, Jimmy White, Neal Foulds, Alan McManus and Matt Smith by clicking in the image below.