Mark Selby won snooker’s biggest invitation event for the third time by beating Neil Robertson 10-6 in the final of the Betfair Masters.
The sport’s toughest match player fought his way to an impressive victory in a contest which finished just before midnight at Alexandra Palace. After surging 8-3 in front, he survived a mini-fightback from Robertson to add to the Masters crowns he won in 2008 and 2010.
Selby won the UK Championship last month – beating Shaun Murphy 10-6 in the final – and becomes the first player to win two of snooker’s ‘big three’ BBC events back-to-back since Mark Williams in 2002/03. Williams also won the World Championship that season, and Leicester’s 29-year-old Selby will go to Sheffield in April with a chance to complete and incredible triple crown.
Tonight’s victory landed him a bumper pay-day of £175,000, to add to the £125,000 he won at the UK Championship and the 12,000 Euros gained with victory at the European Tour event in Munich earlier this month. Over those three events he has won his latest 14 consecutive matches and justified beyond doubt his world number one status.
While he made only one century during the tournament, a 102 in the third frame today, Selby’s sheer determination carried him through the week, particularly in coming from 5-1 down to beat Stuart Bingham 6-5 and from 4-1 behind to edged out Graeme Dott 6-5 in last night’s semi-final.
Australia’s 30-year-old Robertson missed out on the chance to become only the fourth player – after Cliff Thorburn, Stephen Hendry and Paul Hunter – to successfully defend the Masters title. He played the best snooker of the week in reaching the final but could not reproduce that form today and had to accept the £85,000 second prize. Having won each of his first seven finals in major ranking or invitation events, Robertson has now lost three in a row.
Selby led 5-3 after the first session, and extended his lead in the first frame tonight with a break of 67. Robertson made 39 in the next before missing a tricky blue to a baulk corner. Selby battled his way back into the frame and, after Robertson was unlucky to rattle a red in the jaws of a corner pocket, cleared from red to pink to go 7-3 up.
He dominated frame 11 with top runs of 25 and 32 to go five clear, before Robertson stopped the rot with a 74 to make it 8-4 in the mid-session interval.
Robertson boosted his hopes of a fight-back with a run of 83 in frame 13, after Selby had missed an early red to a centre pocket.
Both players had scoring chances in the 14th, Selby missed the third-last red when leading 50-26, then Robertson failing to cut in a thin yellow. After a safety exchange, Robertson potted a cracking long brown and added the blue to go 13 points up. Selby failed on a long pink and his opponent knocked it in to make it three frames on the spin.
In the 15th, Selby enjoyed a handy fluke with five reds left, which allowed him to build a 42-21 lead. An excellent long pot on the last red, followed by the black, helped him go three up with four to play at 9-6.
Selby then build a 52-9 lead in frame 16 with four reds remaining. And when Robertson’s attempted long pot stayed out, Selby added the points he needed.
“I was really happy with the way I played,” said Selby. “I knew I had to play better and be more attacking. I seemed to that in the first session. I was tired towards the end. This afternoon I felt fresh but tonight I felt it catching up with me. Thankfully I gave myself a good enough lead to have to something to mess about with.
“It’s just unbelievable at the moment. A few months ago I had the neck injury and I didn’t know if I was going to be playing again. Now I’m sitting here having won the UK and the Masters. I’ve got a great team around me at the moment and they’ve pulled me through.”
Asked what he would do with his boosted bank balance, Selby added: “We’ve got planning permission to extend our house. I was planning on doing that anyway before the UK and this will help as I can use World Snooker’s money not mine!”
Robertson said: “If I had played as well as I did in my first three matches I think I could have won convincingly. In the first few frames I tried not to watch Mark play because he can keep you away from the table for a long time and I wanted to keep my own rhythm. It was a mistake because my body language was not the best, then when I came to the table I wasn’t ready for it.
“My positional play had been fantastic all week but today it was really poor. I was over the moon to only be 5-3 down after the first session. Tonight I played better and at 8-6 I felt back in it. I had him in trouble in the next frame, then he fluked a red, otherwise I might have had a chance to go 8-7.
“Mark is a fantastic ambassador for our sport. It must have been horrible when he had his neck injury and now he has a new lease of life. He is such a tough competitor and he practises harder than anyone. I’ve got to practice harder to be more consistent.”