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Mark Selby joins the snooker greats after beating John Higgins 18-15 in World Championship final

by Jon Paul, 1st May 2017

Leicester Mercury 2017.jpg

pic: Leicester Mercury

Mark Selby joined the all-time snooker greats as he won a dramatic third World Championship title in a late-night thriller at the Crucible Theatre.

In one of the greatest comebacks in the tournament's history, the 'Jester from Leicester' beat John Higgins 18-15 in the final to become only the fourth player to win back-to-back world crowns.

The defending champion and world No.1, who beat Ding Junhui 18-14 in last year's final, added to his 2014 victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan – when he came from 10-5 behind to win 18-14 – and stand alone on three world titles.

One of Leicester's favourite sons and the Mercury's sportsman of the year, Selby is now behind only Stephen Hendry (seven), Steve Davis (six), O'Sullivan (five) and Higgins (four) in terms of Crucible titles won.

Selby and Higgins met in 1997 when the Leicester man was making his world final debut but, on that occasion, it was the Scot who prevailed 18-13 despite a spirited fightback from his opponent, who was then largely an unknown quantity.

On the 40th anniversary of the Crucible hosting the World Championship and a decade on from that last showdown, pre-tournament favourite Selby needed another fightback to gain a measure of revenge over Higgins.

Selby had trailed 10-4 at one stage during Sunday's play but mounted a terrific comeback to end the day just three frames behind at 10-7.

After today's first session, 33-year-old Selby had stormed into the lead and taken full control of the match, winning a further six frames to leave Higgins stunned and facing a 13-11 deficit going into the final frames of the evening.

Selby, renowned for his never-say-die attitude and incredible tenacity under pressure, had the edge and would not let that slip as he won the five frames he needed to clinch a historic third world title, despite a few nervy moments as Higgins mounted a mini-comeback.

'Something I could only dream of'

"I can't believe it, I'm still pinching myself," said Selby after receiving the trophy and pocketing a cheque for £375,000.

"When I was 10-4 down, to get out 10-7, I was over the moon. I'd hit the wall and had nothing left. John outplayed me most of yesterday.

"I came back today a lot fresher and played better. At 10-4 I tried to pull myself together, and said if I'm going to lose at least go down fighting.

"I tried to find something and fortunately for me John missed a few balls you wouldn't expect him to miss and gave me a few chances to get back into the match

It's very special to sit at three titles on own, it's is unbelievable. To be only one of four players to defend the title is something I could only dream of."


Selby survives mini-comeback from Higgins

Selby won the opening two frames of the evening to go 14-11 ahead before 41-year-old Higgins punished a missed red to pull one back.

But Selby had the scent of the winning line in his nostrils and immediately won the next with a break of 71 to go three clear again, before taking the 28th frame thanks to runs of 54 and 70 to go into the mid-session interval 16-12 ahead.

Higgins showed some fighting spirit of his own after the restart as the four-time champion produced a break of 88 to reduce the arrears to 16-13, and then knocked in a 111 to take the next and give Selby plenty to think about.

A 46 in the next gave Selby the advantage but a failed attempt to leave a snooker behind the black – the cue ball was ruled by referee Jan Verhaas to have missed – proved crucial as Higgins pounced with a 43 before winning a safety battle to go just 16-15 down.
 

But Selby, with his back against the wall, sank a superb long opening red in the next to spark a run of 131 and stand just one frame from victory, and he wrapped it up with a gritty 75 in the following frame to retain the famous trophy and spark the celebrations.

It was just 12 months ago that Selby beat Ding – who he also saw off in this year's semi-finals – just minutes after his beloved Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions.

His achievement then slipped under the radar somewhat but, with no such distraction this year, Selby will bask in the headlines and looks set to continue his dominance of his sport.

He had won four ranking titles this season, including the UK Championship, and his victory against Higgins will cement his reputation as one of the greatest snooker players of all time.


(the source: Leicester Mercury, 1st May 2017)



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