Crucible 2021 – Mark Selby is World Champion for the fourth time

Mark Selby beat Shaun Murphy by 18-15 in the final, becoming World Champion for the fourth time. By doing so he became only the fifth player to take the title more than three times at the Crucible. That propelled him to the second place in the rankings, only £124,000 behind Judd Trump, and with a realistic chance to regain the number one spot in the coming season, something that Mark has set as a goal for himself.

Congratulations Mark Selby!

The last day of the Championship was played in front of a full capacity crowd. Thanks to Barry Hearn and his team snooker has been a leader when it comes to staging events, returning to normality and welcoming back crowds during and after the covid-19 crisis.

Thank you Barry Hearn!

Here is the report by WST:

Selby Lands Fourth Crucible Crown

Mark Selby strengthened his status as one of snooker’s all-time greats by beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in the final of the Betfred World Championship to conquer the Crucible for the fourth time.

In an exciting contest, Selby came from 6-4 down to lead 17-13, then saw Murphy battle back with two centuries, before getting over the line in the 33rd frame to take the silverware and a career-high pay-day of £500,000.

Champion in 2014, 2016, 2017 and now 2021, Selby has lifted the trophy four times in seven years; no other player has won it more than once in the same period. He becomes only the fifth player to take the title more than three times at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams.

Most Crucible Crowns
Stephen Hendry 7
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6
Steve Davis 6
Mark Selby 4
John Higgins 4
Mark Williams 3

His game is purpose-built for the challenges of the 17-day Sheffield marathon. Seemingly boundless stamina, fierce concentration, an unrivalled tactical game and heavy scoring are attributes which make him the toughest match-player in the sport. As Stephen Hendry put it: “Selby is like a snooker vampire. He sucks all the life and adrenaline out of you. He’s just the most unbelievable competitor I’ve ever seen.

Leicester’s Selby suffered a crisis of confidence in 2019 when he went over a year without a title. He questioned his own technique and lost his habit of producing his best at the business end of close matches. Coach and psychologist Chris Henry takes plenty of credit for restoring Selby’s self-belief. Even a 17-16 defeat against O’Sullivan in the semi-finals last year was processed quickly as Selby won the first ranking event of the new season – the European Masters – then thumped O’Sullivan 9-3 in the final of the Scottish Open in December. Without question, he is back to his best.

Selby becomes the eighth player to win 20 ranking titles and has now won 11 of his last 12 ranking finals; his only defeat coming at the one-frame Shoot Out earlier this season. With three Masters and two UK Championship titles to his name, he has now won nine Triple Crown events, bringing him level with Higgins and behind only O’Sullivan (20), Hendry (18) and Davis (15). Age 37, he may well have another decade at the top level in which to chase snooker’s biggest records.

Climbing from fourth to second in the world rankings, Selby has narrowed the gap on leader Judd Trump to just £124,000, and has set a target next season of regaining the top spot he last held in March 2019.

Murphy, the 2005 champion, had hoped to become only the seventh player to win multiple titles at the Crucible, and he would have set a new record for the longest gap between his first and second. The 38-year-old has now lost his last three world finals, having finished runner-up to Higgins in 2009 and Stuart Bingham in 2015.

A packed crowd was welcomed for the final, as the tournament was part of the Government’s Events Research Programme

Having knocked out Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson, Murphy came into the final full of swagger, and made a promising start, leading 5-3 after the first session. But he looked jaded on Sunday night as Selby won six out of seven frames to lead 10-7, and Murphy was never able to narrow the gap to less than two frames.

The £200,000 runner-up prize is a huge consolation for Murphy and rescues a season in which he had previously reached just one ranking semi-final, and that cheque moves him up from seventh to fifth in the world. The Dublin-based cueman also banks the £15,000 high break prize for a 144 which was the best of 108 centuries made during the tournament, smashing the previous record of 100.

For the first time at a British sporting event for over a year, a full-capacity crowd filled the arena at the Crucible, as snooker helped lead the way towards the return of all forms of indoor entertainment. The atmosphere for Monday’s afternoon’s introduction was sensational. As the evening session got underway, Murphy was handed the warmer reception, as fans hoped to see him battle back from a 14-11 deficit.

Click here for frame-by-frame report

Leading 28-4 in the first frame of the concluding session, Murphy missed the pink to a centre pocket with the balls at his mercy. Selby punished him with a 66 clearance to lead 15-11. The Jester looked set to pull further ahead until he missed a red to a top corner on 44 in frame 27. Murphy replied with 30 then got another chance and made a tremendous 43 clearance, pumping his fist as he boosted his hopes of a fight-back.

But a safety error from Murphy early in frame 28 handed Selby the chance to make 40. He played safe then earned another chance and added 68 to go 16-12 ahead. After a scrappy opening to the 29th, Selby played a loose safety and Murphy’s 58 was enough to draw him within three frames at the interval.

A tactical exchange early in frame 30 was resolved when Selby slotted a red into a centre pocket, and he went on to make a 120 total clearance to move to the brink of victory at 17-13. Murphy pulled two back in quick succession with breaks of 100 and 110.

Selby celebrates with wife Vikki and daughter Sofia

In frame 33, Selby made 38 before missing a difficult red to a baulk corner. Murphy replied with 22 then had another chance and made 35 before facing a tough pot on the last red along a side cushion, playing with the long rest. Others might have played safe, but Murphy only had eyes on the clearance. The red wobbled in the jaws, and stayed out. That was his last shot as Selby composed himself and cleared the table.

It’s unbelievable to win it for a fourth time,” said Selby. “It’s such a tough tournament. To beat O’Sullivan to win my first title in 2014 was a dream come true. To win it tonight with my daughter Sofia there, now she is old enough to understand what’s happening, is on a par. Shaun played fantastic, he is a great player and great ambassador.

A few years ago I had some really dark days, times were tough. All my family and people who are close to me will understand what I am going through now. This is a special one.

When I came here last year I wasn’t too confident, and Chris Henry got me within one frame of the final. And by working with him this year I have seen an massive change in terms of my self-belief because I was fragile before. It is such a tough sport mentally and you can’t win this event if you doubt yourself.

My aim now is to get back to world number one, but that will be tough because Judd Trump has been winning so much for the past two years.

Murphy said: “Mark is super granite. I have known him since we were nine years of age and he has always been the same. I started the match well and he went into super-hard mode. He broke me last night and it was tough to give him a three frame lead, in the end that’s what made the difference. When I made two centuries to go 17-15 I thought I was in with a chance, but it wasn’t to be.

Life has been very difficult for everyone in the last 12 months. I want to say a very deep personal thank you to everyone who has bought a ticket and come here over the last 17 days. Sport is nothing without the fans and we have been so delighted to have everyone back for the past fortnight. I am gutted to lose but thrilled to have been part of a great match.

Playing Mark is like a forensic exam, he tests every aspect of your game. He has to be looked at as the best all-rounder we have ever seen. His long potting, scoring and tactical play are all extremely good and he has patience in abundance.

I have shown to myself that my best game is still pretty good. Maybe my best snooker could still be ahead of me.

Mark Selby won the match on Sunday evening:  Shaun came into that second session leading by 5-3 and found himself trailing by 10-7 at the end of it, after that he was always chasing … in vain.

Shaun could not replicate what he had done in the semi-finals against Kyren Wilson, and that was largely because Mark Selby was able to punish about every mistake. That, and the fact that this was the Final generated immense pressure … and more mistakes. The strongest player under pressure won.

I’m not a great fan of Mark’s style, but I do unreservedly admire his skills, his tenacity, his strength and poise under pressure, and his unbreakable will to win.
He is a worthy World Champion and definitely a great of the sport we love.

Hats off Mark!

12 thoughts on “Crucible 2021 – Mark Selby is World Champion for the fourth time

  1. I did not enjoy this year’s World Championship as much as I wanted to. Not because Selby won, a worthy winner that definitely came to play.

    It started a bit off course on the second day of judgement day. At least one English player was guaranteed to qualify, but we ended up with 8 English qualifiers. I see snooker as an international sport, and this made things less interesting from my point of view.

    The troubles continued in round 2, when only two qualifiers made it to the second round, and one of them was Bingham. Suddenly the World championship looks like the Masters with only familiar faces. I want to see more younger players and international players. (This is, of course, not the best players fault, they just did what they were meant to do.)

    Then Ronnie lost. And Robbo, And Mark Williams. The results after that did not interest me much.

    My opinion is very subjective, of course, but I hope next year’s WC is less top heavy.

  2. Its not certain of course that Trump v Selby will be the defining rivalry going forward. For example who would have predicted that from 2011 – 2021 Robbo and Higgins would be winless in the worlds. As for Ronnie, to win 5 triple crowns after the age of 40 is mighty impressive in my book. In Ronald we trust !

  3. Dark times for Ronnie fans, with little reason to be optimistic about the future. Ronnie’s (inevitable) decline seems to have started, either because of Father Time or because Ronnie isn’t willing to invest enough of his time and energy into snooker to be competitive with the top players. He seems content to focus much of his attention on other things, such as running, his new clothing line, etc.

    Hopefully some younger players will rise up to challenge Selby/Trump, but I’m not expecting that to happen any time soon…

    • When players grow old, it’s not uncommon that they find it harder to practice as much as they used to and to focus solely on snooker. Willo is the same. Actually having other things in their lives is what keeps them in the game because snooker is no more everything to them hence find ways to enjoy it despite the decline.

  4. Shade:
    Since 2011,…it’s a decade(!)…Trump: 32 ranking final without Selby, Selby: 25 ranking final without Trump…! (And no TC final, no Masters final, no CoC final, no ultimate fight between the two strongest player : ))
    It’s a very-very lucky situation…both of them.

    • It’s largely because Trump has not been in that many “Big” finals since the 2019 Crucible and before that Selby had a lean spell during which he only won in China.

  5. Mark Selby was definitely a worthy champion, although arguably his best snooker was in the first 3 rounds. Of course it’s not easy to play that well under pressure, especially when it means as much as it clearly did. Also huge credit to Chris Henry, whose methods have probably taken snooker forward as much as any individual player.

    So there ends a season, which was scarred by covid. Despite this most of the winners were fairly predictable. The only real surprises were Yan Bingtao’s Masters’ win, Jordan Brown’s Welsh Open win, and John Higgins’ remarkable performance in the Players’ Championship. But under the surface, many lesser-known players were negatively impacted by the lockdown. Broadly, I agree with Steve Davis that these were ‘First World problems’, but indeed some careers have been blown off course. It’s even worse for the amateurs, who will join those relegated in Q School starting on May 27th.

    We don’t yet have the schedule for 2021-22, due to uncertainty about international events. Last week there was a 66-player CBSA tournament in Xi’an, won by Zhang Anda who beat a talented 17-year old Liu Hongyu. The CBSA plan a full calendar. However the travelling situation remains unclear, but it is possible that events might be viable in China sometime later in 2021.

    Also, a word of thanks to Barry Hearn, who has led WST with distinction, especially through the crisis. I may disagree with some of the minutiae, such as tournament structures and development of younger players, but his remit was very much to reestablish snooker which had fallen into critical decline. This he has acheived brilliantly, and I wish him well.

    • Agree with all of it Lewis. Yes we do criticise some aspects of Barry Hearn’s snooker … we have that luxury because snooker has been thriving since he came to power.

    • Thank for the other message Csilla, and you should not be so depressed. Inevitably, Ronnie will win less and the ones younger than him will win more. We have to accept that – for our own good – and enjoy the moments of brilliance. More of those will come for sure.

      • That is acceptable and excepted, nothing to do about it (although it is likely that some of this season’s losses will never sit well with me). But that’s just one part, but as Mark said, if it’ll now be between Selby and Trump most of the time, it’s a double blow

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