Recently, the snooker UK Championships occurred, and with ranking points, and £170,000 for the winner on offer, it seemed the top players might have been looking to end the week with the trophy. Pre-tournament, the favourite seemed to be Australian Neil Robertson; as the reigning champion, he entered the tournament as the top seed. Yet, it was last year’s runner-up, Mark Selby, who eventually won the trophy, securing victory versus five-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan via a 10-7 score line. Victory in the tournament, contested between the 128 highest ranked players on the tour, may suggest Selby possesses the quality to emerge victorious versus any player, whilst perhaps simultaneously showcasing the reasoning as to why he has held the number one ranking for nearly two years.
In the opening round, top seed Neil Robertson faced Peter Lines, with many seeming to expect the Australian to win his first round tie, ultimately then utilising the victory as a catalyst in his quest for the final. Yet, Lines, perhaps the underdog, won the match 6-3, and the veteran’s victory seemed to create a more competitive tournament, with the route to the final seeming to open for other top players. With other top eight seeds reaching the quarter-finals, it seemed many possessed the credentials to add to their trophy cabinets. Yet, Selby seemed to command the status as the in-form player, as victories versus previous champions Higgins and Murphy enabled him to reach the final.
As such, the final was contested between Selby and O’Sullivan and, even though Selby boasted the superior ranking, and the more recent tournament victory, it seemed many predicted an O’Sullivan triumph; this may have been due to both the Englishman’s number of previous final appearances, along with the fact he had won four of his matches in the tournament by a result of 6-2 or more. Yet, Selby seemed to showcase the reasoning for his number one status, winning the final four frames in the first session to lead 5-3 at the interval, before holding on to finish the match on the right side of a 10-7 score. Selby registered multiple scores of over 100 in the final, and he also recorded totals of 137 and 134 in single visits to the table; the consistency with which he seemed to score high amounts may suggest he is playing at his peak ability at a potentially pivotal point in the season.
Whilst the tournament was his seventh ranking title, the victory may be more pivotal for another reason; it may have proven Selby is an accomplished player, who has won titles in two different disciplines. Prior to competing on the snooker tour, Selby was a professional pool player, and his victories in the sport may have enhanced his chances of glory, as his seeming dominance may have contributed to him becoming a more accomplished player. He also became the youngest snooker player to turn professional in 1999, aged 16, seemingly suggesting he possessed the talent to compete at a young age, perhaps the catalyst in his future tournament victories. Whilst the shortlist for Sport’s Personality of the Year has already been announced, perhaps Selby may have warranted a selection, as his consistent record throughout the year may have suggested he is playing at his peak ability. Yet, being overlooked may motivate him to increase his repertoire, and further achieve in the sport in order to be considered amongst the best sportsmen in Britain.
With his appearance in the final, O’Sullivan may be amongst the favourites for the upcoming Scottish Open, as he may have momentum to win his 29th ranking title. Yet, his aforementioned appearance may also motivate other players to replicate his feat, as it may have suggested any player possesses the quality to contest for trophies, as the sport seems to possess a vast array of players who may have won tournaments in the past. Ultimately, with over 100 century breaks recorded in the tournament, there may be a suggestion of snooker becoming a more intriguing and accessible sport for fans, which may be pivotal in getting snooker recognised on a global scale.
How may Selby enhance his credentials in order to ensure he extends his tenure as world number one?