Jason Ferguson gives the latest on Turkish Masters, the upcoming season and possible new events
Phil Haigh – Thursday 13 May 2021
The newly-announced Turkish Masters will have a top prize of ‘at least £100,000’ confirms WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson, who is plotting some more events around the Mediterranean in the near future.
After a low-key unveiling of the season’s calendar last week, with a number of gaps with ‘potential ranking event’ one of those gaps was filled in style with the announcement of the new tournament in Antalya at the end of September.
It’s a glamorous destination for the tour, especially after a year of behind-closed-doors action in Milton Keynes, and of the confirmed £500,000 prize fund, Ferguson says at least £100,000 will go to the champion.
‘It’s a full-ranking, flat draw, 128 players,’ Ferguson explained to Metro.co.uk.‘The intention is to take 64 players to Turkey, but we’ll hold some first round matches for over there, the world champion and a few others and it will be a minimum of £100,000 first prize.
‘I’m really excited. It’s been two years’ work for me, rumbling along in the background.
‘The promoter, a lovely guy called Tugba [Irten] has pulled everything together and made it work, it’s really exciting.
‘If I could send one message, I urge all players to support this event. This is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.’
The players appear to share Ferguson’s excitement for a trip to Turkey in September – as long as Covid-related travel restrictions are eased by then – and they could have more appealing destinations to look forward to in the coming months as well.
‘I’m working on a few in this sort of area,’ Jason said. ‘We’ve had a lot of time to think in lockdown.
‘It’s been hard in Milton Keynes, it was great for us there, but we can’t keep going back to the same place. We need to get out and show the world what we’re doing.
‘It’ll be good for the players, good for morale and something to look forward to. I think it’s lifted the spirits a little bit.
‘I’m looking at a few other Mediterranean-style destinations, but it’s all to do with travel and countries opening up again, it’s hard to say too much at the minute.
‘That whole area is booming, the interest in snooker in the Mediterranean is booming and it’s not just ex-pats.
When the 2021/22 calendar was announced there was some concern among players that five slots were filled by ‘potential ranking events’ but Ferguson has allayed fears over these dates in the diary.
Restrictions thanks to the pandemic continue to make things difficult, but whether they take place in the UK or abroad, those gaps in the calendar will be filled.
‘Oh they’re happening, yeah,’ he said. ‘We’re in this difficult travel situation at the moment. We’ve had to hold on as long as we could.
‘Ideally we’d be qualifying for overseas events early, but we don’t know if we can do final stages before the new year.
‘We’re starting off with the Championship League [4-30 July], that’s a good way to get people back playing. Qualifiers for Turkey in the qualifying slot in August.
‘We’re looking at a revised WST Pro series, refining that into a better model.
‘There’s a lot of work to do. It might start gentle with some league-style things but it will gain momentum. We will backfill that calendar, we will fill it up.’
The fact that there will be a few held-over matches gives me a hope that Ronnie will enter. After all he remains one of the most popular players, if not the most popular player and the sponsor will probably want to be sure he makes it to the main venue.
One concern might be the conditions: at the scheduled dates the weather will still be quite hot in Antalya, albeit dry.
ATTRACTING a new generation to the sport while trying to find a future world champion – that’s what Stratford Sports Club’s new head of snooker hopes to achieve.
Former professional Andrew Norman starts his role on 5th June and is already looking forward to introducing youngsters to the sport, as well as coaching regular players of the game.
It’s an exciting chapter for the 40-year-old Bristolian, who told the Herald that being a coach can be very rewarding when seeing players he’s tutored go on to bigger and better things in the world of snooker.
Norman landed the role at Stratford Sports Club purely by chance when working as manager and head coach at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.
“What I didn’t know was at the time I was giving coaching lessons to one of the sports club’s committee members,” said Norman.
“We formed a friendship and he responded really well to the coaching. About two months or so later I had a phone call saying that I had been recommended by that committee member to spearhead the sports club’s snooker operations.”
Norman, who peaked at 42 in the world rankings, retired from the game five years ago and is always on the search for the next champion.
Having had a number of positive conversations with the committee at Stratford Sports Club and club members, Norman cannot wait to get started.
“I gave up snooker due to family reasons and the fact the cost of being a professional was not enough to support my family due to the era I was in,” he said.
“After I gave up snooker I came back to the ‘real world’ with a normal job and decided to become a professional coach.
“I’ve always wanted to find a future champion because it inspires me to help others.
“Juniors are good to concentrate on as they’re the future, but it’s also rewarding to help the average club player.
“I have been talking with the sports club and a few players there and can see there are fantastic facilities available for people to use.
“The tables are of championship standard and everything about the club shows it is very well run. The club is a professionally run outfit and is one I am proud to represent.”
Although finding a future champion is the ultimate dream for Norman, he stressed being able to attract a new generation to the sport was much more important.
“I’ve done summer clubs in the past for children who did not know what snooker was because it isn’t televised as much as the likes of football, cricket or tennis,” he said.
“Children then see the tables and are amazed at just how big they are. However, it amazes me just how quickly they grasp the hand-eye co-ordination – their enthusiasm to learn is brilliant.
“Playing snooker gives children the chance to learn about angles and mathematics, as well as manners, etiquette and sportsmanship.”
Norman added: “I love coaching and seeing those I coach go on to bigger and better things in the world of snooker.
“I’ve now realised through coaching that it’s much harder to watch people who you have coached play than playing myself.
“To see children or anyone go from two to three years barely holding a cue to making a century break gives me such a buzz.
“To get phone calls and texts from parents telling me how well someone I have coached is doing just spurs me on to do even more for them.”
Looking back on his time in the professional game, Norman has no regrets but admitted he wished he could go back in time to give his younger self some all-important advice.
“At my highest I was number 42 in the world in 2007-08. I’m not sure why I did not get any higher as I have played snooker all my life and practised the right things,” he said.
“I was very dedicated. Looking back I was probably too dedicated as I trained too hard.
“Snooker has brought me a lovely life and some amazing experiences. I’ve played everyone on the tour apart from Steve Davis, who I’d love to play against.
“I look back on my time as a pro with no regrets as I have had some lovely moments. My biggest achievement was getting to the last 16 of the 2006 Grand Prix, where I lost to Neil Robertson in the last frame on the black ball.
“That was the year Neil won the Grand Prix and look where he is now.
“Looking back, I probably did not have the mental toughness to get better.
“Now that I’ve got an older head on my shoulders, I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger me how to handle myself and how to get more out of my game.”
When the South West Snooker Academy closed down in 2019, Norman got himself a job at the local Co-op as a goods-in manager but kept his foot in the game by continuing his private coaching at a small snooker club in Clevedon.
But with the opportunity to now spearhead Stratford Sports Club’s snooker operations, Norman is looking forward to the next stage of his career.
“Stratford Sports Club is really investing into the game and to be able to coach there is a fantastic opportunity,” he said.
“There’s the chance now for Stratford to get its name on the snooker world map.
“The sports club is a hidden gem and is clearly set on bringing the game to a higher standard, almost like a centre of excellence.”
He added: “There are some fantastic facilities here with brilliant people behind them. Everyone is welcome to come down and experience snooker for the first time.
“These snooker facilities are a brilliant thing to have on your doorstep and I am looking forward to seeing as many people as possible at Stratford Sports Club.”
I have known Andrew for many, many years. He’s a dear friend and a lovely man with a lovely family. He absolutely loves his sport, and he loves coaching. Nothing will please him more than seeing one of his students progress and reach their goal, no matter how humble this goal might be. He will help you and encourage you and be genuinely pleased with your progress no matter how small the progress and no matter how clumsy and untalented you might be. If you love your snooker he will put all his heart in helping you, always patient, always smiling, always positive.
The closing of the SWSA came as asurprise and a shock to Andrew. I’m glad that he has found another place where he can do what he loves and does best.
If you live in the area and you know a kid who wants to learn to play but is shy for whatever reason, don’t hesitate to direct them or their parents at Andrew. Young girls in particular are often feeling unwelcome in clubs. Gender prejudices are still very much alive unfortunately. Andrew will make sure that they are treated with respect and seen as “players”, not “girls”.
The World Championship is over, and, from what transpired on social media, the new professional season will start mid-July. For once the players will have a decent summer break, which, I think, they all need because the last year has been very difficult for everyone.
For the first time in twenty-nine seasons as a pro, Ronnie has not won anything. He has reached five finals though, which is more that most pros do in their entire career. So, what’s next?
Here I have gathered a few articles that may help us to get an idea about what may be ahead.
World Snooker Championship 2021: ‘They’ve inspired me to keep playing’ – Ronnie O’Sullivan exclusive
John Higgins and Mark Williams meet for the fifth time at the World Championship in the last 16, an astonishing 22 years after they first collided at the Crucible in the 1999 semi-finals. The duo turned professional alongside world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan as part of the sport’s fabled Class of ’92. O’Sullivan explains why their ongoing success has inspired him to scrap any plans for retirement.
Snooker’s enduring Class of ‘92 graduated with honours at the Crucible Theatre over two decades ago, but the timeless triumvirate continue to display a true passion for life-long learning.
For Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, three masters in green baize geometry, every day is a school day.
“If they (Higgins and Williams) see me doing well, they know I’m nothing special,” said O’Sullivan. “We’re all just human beings. They’re both fantastic snooker players, but none of us have got some superpower going on.
We’ve grew up together, we respect each other’s games, we know each other capabilities. I just think we feed off each other and get inspired by each other.
With 13 world titles between them over the past 29 years, and two over the past three years in Sheffield, the holy trinity of cue sports, an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman, continue to thrive and survive at the elite echelons of the sport in quite inimitable style in their 40s. Still enjoying the golden view from the ridge when lesser cueists are over the hill.
They may share the same years as the 45th Crucible tournament they are chasing, but are hardly flagging with all three safely ensconced inside the world’s top 12, safer than a Higgins shot to nothing.
World number two O’Sullivan’s standing in the rankings is only bettered by Judd Trump, who is eyeing a staggering sixth triumph in the season of social distancing, but others covet the game’s crowning glory.
Williams and Higgins will collide at the Crucible over the best-of-25 frames on Friday (LIVE on Eurosport at 2:30pm) and Saturday in the last 16 for the fifth time since they turned professional in 1992.
All three had lifted their first world titles between 1998 and 2001, but their duels form the rich fabric of green baize folklore as much as the Bayeux Tapestry tells you of Norman conquest minus Mark Davis from Hastings.
Williams enjoyed victories over Higgins in the 1999 (17-10) and 2000 (17-15) semi-finals and the 2018 (18-16) final respectively with Higgins completing a memorable 17-14 win in the 2011 semi-finals on his passage to a fourth world title. Fittingly, they are level on 11 wins each in career ranking duels.
O’Sullivan made off with his first world title courtesy of an 18-14 victory over Higgins in the 2001 final, but has numerous memories of facing both men on the grandest stage, the most recent of which saw him complete a 13-10 success against Williams in the quarter-finals on his sojourn to a sixth world title last August.
“My biggest two rivals have been Higgins and Williams,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “We’re very different. Me and Williams have got more of a shot-making style.
“We make the game up as we go along while Higgins is more in the style of Steve Davis. Very robotic, tough to play against and can tie you up in knots.
“It’s weird because John plays well against me, I play well against Williams, but he plays well against John.
“It is almost like our styles contrast. If I could use Mark Williams’ style against John Higgins, I’d probably get a lot more success against him.
If Mark Williams could use John Higgins’ style against me it would be the same… it’s really funny how the dynamics work out, but all three of us have kept each other going in many ways. Whenever one has been down, they probably get inspired by the other one.
O’Sullivan revealed witnessing Williams end a 15-year wait to lift his third world title in 2018 with his epic win over Higgins, who had restored parity at 15-15 from 14-7 behind, inspired him to an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in last year’s final.
“I know there have been times where I’ve sat there and thought: ‘They’re doing alright against the odds’,” confessed O’Sullivan.
“When Williams won the world title in 2018, I sat back and thought: ‘He can do it so surely I can do it’. I think he’s a few months older than me so I think we all give each a bit of belief. I’m sure John and Mark feel the same way.”
Williams celebrated his 46th birthday by claiming the 23rd ranking event of his career at the inaugural WST Pro Series event last month before reaching the final of the Championship League a week later to leave himself mentally attuned for the Crucible.
A 10-4 win over qualifier Sam Craigie in the first round saw him secure another joust with Higgins, who won six straight frames from 7-4 behind in a 10-7 win over Tian Pengfei.
“Williams has been fantastic to watch in the past few tournaments. I thought: ‘you are dusting these young guys up’,” commented O’Sullivan.
“You are trashing them. The way Williams is playing at the moment, he’s a match for anyone because he’s enjoying it and a snooker player enjoying his snooker is a dangerous opponent.
He’s got great temperament, his potting ability is amazing and his break-building has improved a lot over the past two or three years. I’d say he is a much better all-round player than when he first came on the scene.
“We all develop as pros. You start a bit rough round the edges and you develop. Your style improves because you have to adapt and reinvent yourself.
“Higgins has done that recently by changing something. You are always doing that and you hope those changes can make you a better player.
“That is what Mark has done. He can play any game. If you want to play safe: ‘yeah, if you want to score points, yeah, I’m cool with it..‘
“You know when you to pick and choose your battles and just play in a philosophical way. I’m not sure John could do what Mark is doing because they are different styles of players.
“Mark is playing with a tremendous amount of freedom, but I’m not sure that would work for John because he’s a different type of player. But if John gets in the groove and is enjoying his snooker, you don’t want to play him.”
All being well, all three will celebrate 30 years at the summit next year with O’Sullivan conveying the message that diehards should enjoy them while they can.
Apart from Trump, O’Sullivan feels the field has not been sharp enough to bury the Class of ’92, who share the same moniker as Manchester United’s glorious era of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, with almost 2,500 centuries assembled on the baize .
He is still shocked Higgins lost 10-8 to Yan Bingtao in the Masters final in January. O’Sullivan ran in two centuries and a 97 in a 6-3 defeat to Higgins in the last eight with the Players champion totting up three centuries of his own.
“It’s amazing to still be competing,” said O’Sullivan. “I just think we played in an era in the 1980s when snooker was so popular.
“You had no mobile phones back then so you had to focus and concentrate. You were surrounded by really fantastic players.
“I just don’t think you will see that level of player coming through again.
You might see a good crop of players, and in-depth they’re quite good today, but I doubt you will see a John Higgins or Mark Williams type of player again.
“Alright, we’ve got Judd Trump, but he’s the only one, but other than that you look down and there is nobody showing that type of snooker ability or snooker brain.
“There’s just no one. Yeah, there are good players, but if Higgins or Williams play 80 percent of their game, there is still only Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and possibly Mark Selby who can beat them.
“Anybody else won’t get near them. I know Bingtao beat Higgins in the Masters final, but if Higgins had played consistently steady throughout that final I have no doubt he’d have won that 10-6 or 10-5 because he is just a superior player.”
It was perhaps Mark Twain, definitely not Mark ‘The Royal’ King, who was misquoted as suggesting excellence in billiards being the sign of a misspent youth. For the enduring Class of ’92, and those watching under face masks at the Crucible, it has been time well misspent.
Snooker’s enduring Class of ’92
Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng)
John Higgins (Sco)
Mark Williams (Wal)
Born: 5 December 1975
Born: 18 May 1975
Born: 21 March 1975
World titles (6): 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2020
Ronnie O’Sullivan: The only reason I don’t like snooker
Phil Haigh – Wednesday 21 Apr 2021
Ronnie O’Sullivan says he has just one complaint with snooker, although it is a substantial one, as it is the lifestyle that goes with being a professional player.
The Rocket is at the World Snooker Championship this year trying to defend his title and lift the famous trophy for a record-equalling seventh time.
While the 45-year-old would enjoy that experience and still gets a kick out of playing the game, he remains at odds with much that being a professional entails.
The sport may have provided him with nearly £12m in prize money over his career, but O’Sullivan looks to other more glamorous endeavours and cannot help but feel a pang of jealousy.
‘Someone said to me, what is it with you and snooker?’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk. ‘The only reason I don’t like snooker is because of the lifestyle.
‘If I was a golfer, I’d love golf because the lifestyle is great. Beautiful courses, nice hotel, offered great food. It’s like Formula One, tennis…the sport becomes the least important part of the job.
‘I could quite happily not play snooker forever, I might miss it a bit but I’ve got a lot of things I can fill my time with. With snooker I just don’t enjoy the lifestyle of a snooker player.
‘Some of the places we play in now are a lot different from what we used to play in. It used to be more like golf in great venues every tournament, you used to enjoy going to the venue and the hospitality side of it.
‘Now you’re lucky to get a cup of tea or a sandwich from Marks’ so I don’t enjoy that lifestyle. I like good food, being in a nice place, that’s just me.
‘It’s not snooker I don’t like…it’s qualifiers in Barnsley and places like that. I’d much rather go do a qualifier at Augusta or Wimbledon, but I suppose that’s just the sport we’re in.
‘It’s a bit like darts, it’s not a high-end sport. You have to try and make it as comfortable and enjoyable as I can, good hotels, travel well. That’s why you don’t see me around the venue much or hang around with the snooker guys, they’re happy to have a burger and chips from the cafe, I’m not. I want to create a very good environment everywhere I go or I can’t do it.’
O’Sullivan has been especially down on the surroundings he has encountered this season as they have been almost exclusively limited to Milton Keynes during the pandemic.
The sport owes a debt to the Marshall Arena for brilliantly hosting the majority of tournaments over the last year, but the Rocket did not love the constant trips to Milton Keynes, despite choosing to play in nearly all of them.
Asked whether he would keep up his rigorous schedule next season if some kind of normality returns, O’Sullivan was clear.
‘No, I’d focus more on the China events, the bigger more prestigious events at this stage of my career,’ he said. ‘The opportunities suit me better out there really.
‘Certain places I’ve missed. Belfast is great, York is fantastic, China there’s some great places.
‘I could play virtually every tournament this year because the traveling was doable, it wasn’t an issue. If it goes back to what it was then obviously I’d have to make a call and just pick and choose the ones I do here but focus on China.
‘If they do all the China events in one go then I can do all the China events and do the majority in the UK as well. But if it goes back to what it was, going round the world four times in a month, I couldn’t do it at my age.
‘I have to put my interests first, run my own operation and focus on what I have to do. Try and ignore what all the other players seem to do which is getting sucked up on the hamster wheel of going from event to event because they feel like they have to. I’d rather retain some control and me be the one deciding what I want to do.’
O’Sullivan has found the ‘hamster wheel’ that he has embarked on this season give him an even more care-free attitude to his game than usual, consistently insisting that he is not fussed whether he wins or loses.
‘The way it is at the moment there’s literally a snooker game every day so I think it’s less important how you do, how you play, you just think, “I’ll just play.”’ O’Sullivan said.
‘Even if it goes back to normal, who cares? You win, great, if you don’t, brilliant, I’ve got another game in four days. You don’t really care if you win or lose, so it’s got its benefits I suppose.
‘We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, for every benefit there’s a drawback and every drawback there’s a benefit.’
I have put some things in bold there. The first one is what Ronnie says about the venues. For nearly twenty years Ronnie never needed to qualify. During the “tobacco” years the “main” venues had great hospitality. Most players who were in the top 16 during those years have a certain level of nostalgia about that aspect of the sport. Those who weren’t in the elite though very rarely enjoyed those things. There was nothing glamorous about Norbeck Castle, nor about Pontins nor about playing in cublicles in front a a couple of people at best. Most of them never got on television. They were little known, almost invisible, especially outside the top 32.
Will Ronnie O’Sullivan win the World Snooker Championship again? Ken Doherty and Alan McManus decide
Phil Haigh – Thursday 29 Apr 2021
Ronnie O’Sullivan missed his chance to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven World Snooker Championship titles this year, but Alan McManus can see him doing so in future, while Ken Doherty fully expects him to.
The Rocket suffered a shock 13-12 defeat to Anthony McGill in the last 16, bringing about an early end to his title defence in Sheffield.
His victory at the Crucible last summer took his World Championship tally to six, level with Steve Davis but still one behind Hendry’s incredible effort of seven.
At 45-years-old, time is not on the Rocket’s side as he looks to match, or even better, Hendry’s achievement but no one is writing him off just yet.
1997 world champion Doherty says he never thought this would be Ronnie’s year, but is sure that he will have another Crucible triumph in the future.
‘I didn’t really fancy Ronnie O’Sullivan coming into this one,’ Doherty told Metro.co.uk. ‘He had some heavy defeats in finals this season and the last one to Neil Robertson was very convincing, it will have knocked his confidence.
‘Anyone can see their confidence knocked, it happens to everyone and it was a brilliant performance from Anthony McGill.
‘I do fancy him to win a seventh title, though. He’s got two or three years where he’ll have a really good chance and I think he’ll do it.
‘I think he deserves it, for what he’s given snooker over the years, no one would begrudge him winning a seventh world title, except Stephen Hendry, who definitely would.’
McManus is not quite as convinced that O’Sullivan will claim another world title, but he certainly thinks he has every chance to do so in the next five years.
‘He can, I would never write off one of those guys, nah. Just too many times they come back and do it again,’ said McManus.
‘I did say earlier in the week before he played Anthony, that Anthony’s a contender to win this. He’s a guy that’s learning all the time and I did think that was…not a banana skin…but Ronnie was never winning that 13-6. To me, it was a close game written all over it and he’s come a cropper.
‘I think Ronnie plays his best stuff later in this tournament, early on he can be a little bit vulnerable maybe. I think of recent years losing to Stuart Bingham, Ali [Carter], [James] Cahill, incredible players but he needs to find his way to get deep into the draw. Then, because of the charisma and magnetism and everything that he’s got, once you get down to one table, that’s when all the magic can happen. Like it did last season against Mark Selby, even though there was no one in, 16-14 behind, it can happen because that’s what he is able to do.
‘I don’t think he can stay on the horse for as long as other guys now, because of the way he plays, he likes to play that creative way, it’s a shorter span, and that’s the way he likes to play.
‘He’s not as drilled as some of the other guys, not as comfortable as some of the other guys to battle it out. But of course he can, he’s fit as a flea, absolutely got five more years at it.’
O’Sullivan regularly speaks of his passions outside of snooker, including his love of running and various business interests such as a pop-up shop in Sheffield’s Meadowhall.
McManus feels this outlook has helped him, keeps him content in the sport and boosts his chances of more success.
‘I had a chat with him a week ago in the practice room and he seems like he’s in a really good place in his life,’ said the former Masters champion. ‘I’ve often wondered about that, if he enjoys it and good on him.
‘What he’s doing with different things, his shop, picking and choosing events, it’s the right path for him. It suits him, he’s earned that right to jump off the treadmill and do what he wants.
‘He’ll be fine, he’ll still win tournaments, there’s no question. Probably next time he gets to a final it’ll be 9-1, because that’s what he does.’
The Rocket himself fancies his chances, believing he has got five more years with a reasonable chance of success in Sheffield.
‘I have probably got another five years I suppose to go at the record,’ he said. ‘The way I look after myself, the way I play . . . I suppose I could get it right maybe one more time. It’s probably the only record I haven’t got, so I won’t be too hard on myself.
‘Can I still win here? Yeah, and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think so. I just need to pitch up and play. A bit like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, they are probably not the best player now, probably don’t have the former desire. But they are still the one that everybody wants to see.’
So there you have it … hopefully next season will be a good one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today is the last day of the championship, and only two sessions remain to be played.
Yesterday Shaun Murphy started well, he lead by 5-3 after the first session. Mark Selby though came back in the evening “doing a Selby” … by that I mean slowing down, putting balls on cushions, making everything difficult. It paid off … of course, it did, and he finished the session 10-7 up.
Umless Shaun finds an answer, this is over already and Mark Selby will lift the trophy for the fourth time.
Ronnie O’Sullivan offers Shaun Murphy advice amid Mark Selby masterclass in World Snooker Championship final
Phil Haigh – Monday 3 May 2021
Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Shaun Murphy that he needs to stop getting sucked into Mark Selby’s style of play in the World Snooker Championship final or he has ‘zero chance’ of winning and it will ‘haunt him for years’.
Murphy took a 5-3 lead into the second session but ended it 10-7 behind as Selby put on a match-play masterclass at the Crucible.
The three-time world champion turned in an all-round display of immense quality, but also his trademark granite mindset, remorselessly slugging it out and watching his opponent mentally crumble around him.
Murphy was finding it impossible to get any fluency as Selby either made breaks of his own or put balls safe and restricted the Magician to half chances with long periods of time between them.
In some ways it is a classic Selby performance, playing the match on his own terms and O’Sullivan says Murphy needs to change that immediately to have any chance of lifting the world title on Monday.
‘His head’s in mush, Selby’s keeping balls tight on the cushions, his head is in a jam jar, he can’t think straight,’ the Rocket said on Eurosport.
‘If they was to put scanners in his brain they’d be saying: “This fella is really not in a good place at the moment.”
‘If I was to go into Murphy’s corner, I’d say to him: “From this point onwards, every time he goes to make the game scrappy you have got to get every ball off the cushion. Every time he puts one on the cushion, get two off.
“Get the balls out in the open, if you feel like you’re getting sucked into his pace and you’re walking round the table three times, no, get to the table, play the first shot you see then sit in your chair. Let him do all the walking around, driving himself mad.”
‘There’s no point in getting sucked in and playing Selby’s game. The only way Murphy can win is with that other type of game, and even if he loses, do it on your own terms, don’t lose playing snooker like those last few frames, because that will haunt him for years.
‘He will look back at this final and go, “I was meant to enjoy that.” He needs to come out and at least say he enjoyed that final, and the only way he’s going to do that is busting balls out, get them off the cushions and playing the type of snooker that got him to this final.
‘Playing like that he’s got absolute zero chance.’
Playing ultra-aggressive snooker in the face of granite match-play could be seen as a very dangerous ploy, with Selby just as capable as anyone of pouncing on chances himself.
O’Sullivan doesn’t see it as a risk though, because Murphy currently is guaranteed to lose, in his eyes, so it will only improve his chances.
‘Sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice one of your soldiers to win a battle and you might lose a solider but you’ll win certain battles,’ said Ronnie.
‘At the moment he ain’t gonna win any battles, it’s a no-win situation.
‘It might look reckless getting balls out, but you’re sticking the ball in Selby’s court and saying, “Come and play me, come and fight me”.
‘He ain’t up for a fight, he don’t want that type of game, he knows Murphy’s gone now.
‘There’s no blaming Mark Selby at all, but don’t try and play that game if you’re Shaun Murphy, or anyone in the game!
‘It’s his only chance, it’s not his best chance, it’s his only chance.
‘John Higgins had to play Selby in the final and it went like that, not even the great John Higgins, even he crumbled. If he can’t come up with an answer for it, you’ve got to forget trying to compete with him on them terms.’
There is still plenty of time for Murphy to recover, with two more sessions as the players race to 18 frames on Monday at 1pm and 7pm.
That’s what Ronnie did in the semi-finals last year and it worked. Selby wasn’t pleased but he was out all the same.
Come on Shaun! Let’s get “disrespectful”! It’s your only chance…
Shaun Murphy came from 10-4 down to beat Kyren Wilson 17-12 and reach the final of the Betfred World Championship for the fourth time.
Wilson looked by far the stronger player in the early stages but the contest turned at the end of the second session when Murphy stole two frames to go from 10-4 to 10-6. World number six Wilson later led 12-9 but from that point Murphy gathered momentum and raced over the finishing line in the concluding session, making five breaks over 50.
Murphy goes through to face Mark Selby over a possible 35 frames on Sunday and Monday for the trophy and top prize of £500,000. Having won the title in 2005, he is aiming to join an elite group of just six other players to have held the silverware more than once at the Crucible.
World number seven Murphy has lost two of his three previous Sheffield finals; he was runner-up to John Higgins in 2009 and Bingham in 2015. The 38-year-old will be aiming for a tenth career ranking title from his 22nd ranking final.
Murphy’s performance over the past fortnight is a reversal of fortunes given how poor his form has been for much of the season. He has reached just one other ranking event semi-final, and before this event lay 18th on the one-year ranking list.
Adversely affected by lockdown more than most due to restrictions at his base in Dublin, his usual dedication to practice has suffered. But Murphy has found a wave of inspiration at his favourite venue, and has followed up his victory over world number one Judd Trump in the quarter-finals with another flamboyant display of long potting and break-building.
His swagger and confidence around the table are back in abundance while his attacking approach brings back memories of his greatest triumph 16 years ago.
Wilson finished runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan last year and must have believed he could go one better this time after beating Neil Robertson to reach the last four. But he made too many errors from 10-4 up against Murphy and the 29-year-old’s ultimate ambition of conquering the Crucible remains unfulfilled.
Murphy took the first frame of the final session with a break of 78 to lead 13-12. Wilson had first chance in the next and made 35 before suffering a slice of misfortune as he potted a red and split the pack only for the cue ball to go in-off. Murphy punished him with a 91 clearance.
Runs of 117 and 77 put Murphy 16-12 ahead at the interval. A break of 58 gave him control of frame 29, and he clinched victory with a shot which summed up his evening, planting one red on to another to double it across the table into a centre pocket.
“Apart from winning the tournament, this is the best feeling you get in snooker,” said Murphy. “Will I sleep tonight? I’m not sure. My game is in really good shape. I have run into people playing out of their skin this season, but this fortnight things have gone my way. I was 6-2 and 10-4 down but I kept telling myself the finish line was still a long way off. In matches of that length there is always ebb and flow.
“The crowd has made a massive difference, they have been my 12th man. They have fed me and I have tried to give them a bit back. I have always needed that big stage. All the top psychologists say you have got to enjoy it out there to perform to your best. There have been times this season where I have not really enjoyed it. But I have this week.
“It would mean the absolute world to win a second title. It would be a thrill to be in that club of players who have won it more than once. I’ll be second favourite in the final and that suits me down to the ground.”
Wilson said: “Shaun’s long potting – he was going for shots a lot of players wouldn’t look at and just hammering them home. When he gets that Rolls Royce cue action going he is hard to stop. The frame at 10-5 was huge, he raked in a long red and made it look easy.
“I am having to hold myself back from throwing the microphone out of the window. I am raging. I came here to win the tournament, not to get to the semi-finals. I’m still knocking on the door and I’ll be back next year.”
Wilson admitted he was annoyed by Murphy’s fist-pumping celebrations in the arena at certain moments of the match.
“I think it looks a bit silly, it’s not for me,” he added. “He has to do what he can to try to get to me, I suppose. I’m not going to say that did. Fair play, he used his experience and he’s a great champion.”
Losing by 17-12 when 10-4 up is quite unusual and certainly hurts. Shaun Murphy’s fist pumps compounded it all. I have a bit of ambiguous feelings when it comes to fist pumps, and not just in snooker. If a sportsperson does it aiming at their opponents and looking at them straight in the eyesI hate it because I feel it’s an aggression. But this was not what Shaun was doing. He was pumping himself up and getting the crowd excited.
Mark Selby, snooker’s fiercest competitor, beat Stuart Bingham 17-15 in the Betfred World Championship semi-finals, continuing his bid for a fourth Crucible crown.
Selby will face Shaun Murphy over four sessions on Sunday and Monday, and first to 18 frames will have their name engraved on the iconic trophy. Selby’s name is already there, next to the years 2014, 2016 and 2017. Another victory would lift him higher in the pantheon of all-time greats; only Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis and John Higgins have won it more than three times at the Crucible.
The 37-year-old Leicester cueman will be playing in his fifth Sheffield final, having lost his first to Higgins back in 2007. The omens favour Selby – he beat Murphy 17-16 in their semi-final clash at the Crucible that year, and also came out on top 10-6 when they met in the 2012 UK Championship final, and 9-7 in the 2015 German Masters final. The pair have been friends since their junior days but neither will budge an inch over the next two days of combat on the baize.
World number four Selby will be competing in his 30th ranking final and aiming for his 20th title. A loss of form and confidence in 2019 is well behind him – with the help of coach Chris Henry he has rebuilt his status as a feared opponent. The disappointment of a 17-16 defeat against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the same stage in Sheffield last year was softened when he won the European Masters and Scottish Open earlier this season.
With a watertight all-round game and unrivalled powers of concentration, Selby will start favourite in a final in which his opponent may come at him with all guns blazing. Betfred make Selby 1/2, with Murphy 13/8.
Bingham had the initiative when he won five frames in a row to lead 12-9, but couldn’t press home the advantage and carry on his bid to become the only qualifier to win the title other than Terry Griffiths in 1979 and Murphy in 2005. He misses out on the chance to compete for a second Crucible crown, having won it in 2015, but at least has the consolation of a cheque for £100,000 which restores his position among the world’s top 16.
Selby led 16-15 when the match was halted at the end of the afternoon session. They returned three hours later and Selby made a break of 41, then Bingham had a chance to clear but ran out of position in potting the last red. Selby took the upper hand in a tactical battle on the colours when he trapped his opponent in a tough snooker on the green. Bingham missed it five times, and on the last occasion left a chance. Selby slotted the green into a baulk corner, and cleared to the pink to seal victory.
“It feels incredible to get to another world final,” said Selby. “It was such a tough game, Stuart is a great player. It’s strange to think he came here as a qualifier because when he’s like that he is definitely a top eight player. I was just hanging on to his coat tails all the way through and then managed to turn it around at the end.
“At 16-15 I was quite calm because if someone had offered me that at 13-11 down I would have taken it. I felt good in my game. Stuart made an unbelievable clearance to go 16-15. Then in the last frame I had a bit of run to get over the line.
“All the hours I put in on the practice table, all the sacrifices being away from home and the family – getting to a world final makes it all worthwhile. I need to be on top of my game because Shaun is playing as well as he has for a long time. We grew up together, there is only one year between us. We used to play together at Willie Thorne’s club when I was 14 and he was 15. We are still battling now.”
Bingham felt that Selby had deliberately slowed down the flow of the game at certain points in the tie. He said: “One shot took three minutes, then he just rolled into the balls. It’s close to gamesmanship. You have to question that. Does he do it on purpose or what? I wanted a free flowing game. In some frames a ball went over the pocket and we weren’t going to give each other a chance. It’s tough to lose a close game like that. Fair play to Mark, he came out firing today and deserved his win. I had one of those days.”
Whether Mark Selby’s lenghty pondering over shots is gamesmanship, overthinking or a kind of paralysis of the mind facing a stressful situation, only him will know. I have met Mark and spoken to him many times over the years. He’s always been friendly and always came across as a very decent bloke. One conversation we had at the 2011 German Masters remains vivid in my memory. Mark at the time was winning a lot of matches especially in PTCs, He was on his way be become World number one. Yet, there he was sitting looking flat. I asked him if he was ok, adding that he should fill confident given the results he was getting. His answer was a sigh and “If you say so…”. It occured to me that he was definitely NOT feeling the way myself, and probably many fans, expected him to feel under the circumstances. Feelings are not a rational thing, they are not always a reflection of the actual situation the person is in but they they are no less real for the said person going through them.