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Mark Selby Q&A

Mark SelbyWe caught up with the world number one to talk about the season so far, this week’s 918.com German Masters, and Leicester’s answer to Lionel Messi.

Mark, how do you feel about your form going into the last few months of the season?

I felt in good form at the Championship League before the Masters, then at Ally Pally I played really well against Ricky Walden, but didn’t get going against Ronnie O’Sullivan and he played well to beat me. And last week at the League I had some good results so I think I’m in good shape.

Last season you had a quiet first half and then won the German Masters and the China Open in February and April, so do you feel it could be the same again this time?

I hope so. Last season I was probably experiencing what Stuart Bingham is going through now, because I was putting extra pressure on myself as World Champion for the first time. I was turning up at every tournament thinking I had to play no-miss snooker because all eyes were on me. But after a few months of that I settled down and finished the season really strongly. I lost to Anthony McGill in the second round at the World Championship but overall you’ve got to be happy to win two ranking events in a season.

Are you working on anything particular in your game at the moment?

I’m always working on it and trying to improve. But I don’t feel I’ve had many bad performances this season, I’ve just seemed to come up against people who have played better than me on the day quite a few times, and that’s why I’ve not won anything yet. I don’t get any technical advice on my game any more because in the past when I was told something I would tend to take it to an extreme and it would not be helpful. So now I just practice on my own and hope things fall into place when I go to tournaments.

Mark Selby TrophyYou will be defending your title in Berlin this week, how special a tournament is it for you?

The Tempodrom is one of the best venues we play in, especially when it gets down to one table. The crowds are always really good. There was a fantastic night last year when all four quarter-finals were played at the same time and all of them finished 5-4. I beat Judd Trump even though he had a 147, and Shaun Murphy beat Ronnie. The atmosphere that night was just brilliant. I really like Berlin, I had a look around the city the first time we went there.

This time only eight of the top 16 have made it to the venue, does that give you a better chance of winning the title again?

Not really because there are still a lot of class players in the field. I always just go to events feeling that if I play well I’ll have a chance to win. With the flat draws you are always going to get a few shocks in the first couple of rounds – last season I lost to Oliver Lines in the International qualifiers. In Berlin I play Steven Hallworth in the last 32 and he must have played well to get through to the venue.

SelbyWhat do you remember about the final last year against Shaun Murphy?

He played well in the first session and he was 5-2 up, then in the last frame I made a really good clearance to make it 5-3, which was vital because it would have been tougher to come back from 6-2 down. In the evening session I came out strong and won the first four frames to go 7-5 up. Shaun came back to 7-7 then I played two good frame to win 9-7. Every time I play Shaun it seems to be a close match and the fact that we are good friends always adds to it.

Away from snooker you’re a keen Leicester City football fan. Can they win the title?

People keep expecting them to fade away and I was one of those thinking that after we lost to Liverpool on Boxing Day, but since then we’ve bounced back well and I’m sure the players believe they can win it. There are only 15 games to go and they are three points clear at the top. They look almost certain to finish in the top four as they are ten points ahead of Manchester United in fifth. I like the way the manager Claudio Ranieri is handling it because he is just setting short term goals for the team rather than looking too far ahead. Initially I wasn’t in favour of bringing in a new manager because I thought Nigel Pearson did a great job last season and I still feel he deserves a lot of credit because the players he brought in are doing well. I am really enjoying the way we are playing, it’s not as if we are scraping results. We beat Stoke 3-0 last weekend and played some great football. We’re the Barcelona of the Premier League!

So who’s the Lionel Messi?

I remember seeing Jamie Vardy play in the Championship a few years ago and he was a decent player but I felt he would be out of his depth in the Premier League. But this season he has been fantastic. Riyad Mahrez has been brilliant as well and he’s only 24 years old so he must be worth a lot of money. The way he set up the third goal against Stoke was an amazing piece of skill. We’ll do well to hold on to those two in the summer, but if we get into the Champions League and we can offer them more money then there’s no reason why they should leave.

Vardy is a keen snooker player, when are you going to give him a game?

We text each other now and then and I gave him some advice on buying a new cue. But I’m leaving him to concentrate on football at the moment because he needs to win the league for us.