Mark Selby believes he is close to the form which gave him three Crucible crowns, and that was evident in a 10-1 rout of Kurt Maflin in the first round of the Betfred World Championship.
Selby’s margin of victory was the biggest at the Crucible so far this year, and his most one-sided first round triumph since he beat Jimmy Robertson by the same scoreline ten years ago. He outplayed Maflin from start to finish as he set up a intriguing second round clash with Mark Allen, which will be their first meeting at the Crucible.
Selby won snooker’s biggest title in 2014, 2016 and 2017
Leicester’s Selby suffered a painful 17-16 defeat against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals last year but has bounced back strongly this season. He thrashed O’Sullivan 9-3 in the final of the Scottish Open and also won the European Masters as well as reaching the final of the Shoot Out and the semi-finals of three other ranking events.
“My game this season has been close to my best and I feel very good mentally as well,” said the world number four. “Beating Kurt 10-1 is up there with my best performances, especially as the first round here is always a difficult hurdle.”
Selby’s match was the last fixture of the opening round and he was the 14th of the top 16 seeds to progress to the second round. The only two to drop out were Stephen Maguire who lost to Jamie Jones, and Ding Junhui who was beaten by Stuart Bingham.
Selby dominated the first session, making breaks of 68, 54, 60, 50, 101, 142, 50 and 65 as he established an 8-1 lead. In the opening frame tonight he made runs of 42 and 40 to extend his advantage. In frame 11, Maflin had a chance to clear from 57-12 down, but missed a tricky final black to a baulk corner, leaving it over the pocket for Selby to seal the result.
“Kurt had a chance to win the third frame yesterday but missed the pink, that was a big moment early on,” said Selby. “After that I punished him almost every time I had a chance. The first round is always a bit nervy so it’s great to win comfortably.
“I am playing well in practice and, more often than not, bringing that game to the match table. I have been working with my coach Chris Henry and I owe a lot to him. Losing to Ronnie here last year hurt me but then Chris gave me the belief to come back and win my first tournament this season.”
Selby is in a brutally tough section of the draw – if he beats Allen, he will face either John Higgins or Mark Williams in the quarter-finals. “I prefer that because I know if I’m not on my game I’ll be going home,” added the 37-year-old. “Playing against a qualifier when you are a massive favourite brings another type of pressure. Mark Allen is a great player and a great lad.”