Selby Set For Biggest Test
Mark Selby defeated Gary Wilson 13-7 to book a blockbuster Cazoo World Championship quarter-final clash with John Higgins, who he describes facing as snooker’s biggest test.
It will be the latest edition of a storied rivalry between two of the sport’s greatest competitors, who have each won the World Championship four times. Selby leads head-to-head meetings between the pair 13-8, but it is Higgins who narrowly has the better record in their encounters on snooker’s grandest stage.
Tomorrow’s match will be the sixth time Selby and Higgins have crossed cues at the Crucible Theatre. They have contested two world finals against each other; 31-time ranking event winner Higgins was victorious in 2007 and 22-time ranking event winner Selby claimed the title in 2017. Higgins currently leads their World Championship head-to-head 3-2.
This evening’s defeat ends a significant season for Wilson, who picked up his maiden ranking title at the Scottish Open last December. The Tyneside cueman beat Joe O’Connor 9-2 in the final to capture the Stephen Hendry Trophy. Having broken through to the world’s top 16, he will be hoping to add further to his trophy collection next season.
They came into this evening’s session with Selby requiring just three for victory, leading 10-6. The Leicester cueman took the opener in emphatic fashion, firing in a century run of 109 and extending his advantage to 11-6.
Wilson replied with breaks of 58 and 53 to take the 18th frame, but any thoughts of a comeback were quickly stifled by Selby, who moved 12-7 ahead. He then claimed the 20th frame to wrap up victory and set up his meeting with Higgins.
“Mentally it is the biggest test for me playing John. You need to stay strong, because he doesn’t give you anything. You have to work for your chances. He punishes you more times than not and his safety is second to none. If you let your head drop there is no way in the world you are going to win,” said 39-year-old Selby.
“If you are a young lad growing up, you can’t go far wrong looking at John’s game and basing yourself on that. Technically he is very good and his all-round game is very good. I know I’m in for a tough match and the way he played against Kyren Wilson was phenomenal. If he plays anything like that, I know I’ll have to be on top of my game.
“I’m very happy to get through tonight. It is a long tournament, you don’t want to peak too soon and for me it is just about winning. You can always improve as the event goes on. It was a tough game against Gary. I felt the balls went scrappy in most of the sessions. It wasn’t too free flowing. You will get some games like that and I’ve been here long enough to know what the World Championship does to you.”
Wilson said: “I don’t overanalyse things too much in terms of who I’m playing. The simple fact of the matter is that I didn’t perform to my level. You aren’t going to win doing that. It isn’t a very positive thing to take from it but there aren’t any, if you look at the whole game I wasn’t up to scratch.
“I won my first ranking event this season but that is in the past for me now. I’ve got one and I was really relieved and happy to do it at the time. Straight away it was back to trying to get more. I was hoping my levels would improve a bit and they haven’t really. I take all of the positives in terms of where I am in the rankings, coming here seeded and getting more experience. Looking at the overall picture I am very slowly moving forward.”