Mark Selby won his 16th ranking title with an emphatic 9-1 victory over David Gilbert in the final of the 19.com English Open in Crawley.
Selby celebrates with wife Vikki and daughter Sofia
Gilbert described his opponent’s performance as a “masterclass” as Selby missed just seven balls in the whole match.
Leicester’s 36-year-old Selby extended his superb recent record in ranking finals as he has now won 13 of his last 14, since the 2014 World Championship.
It’s his first Home Nations title since the series was launched in 2016, and he will head to next month’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast as the only man who can win the unique £1 million bonus on offer for capturing all four trophies in the series.
The £70,000 top prize moves him one place up the world rankings to fourth. His total of 16 ranking titles brings him level with Neil Robertson, behind Ronnie O’Sullivan (36), Stephen Hendry (36), John Higgins (30), Steve Davis (28) and Mark Williams (22).
Having monopolised the world number one position for 49 months, losing the top dog status was a blow to Selby in March this year. But he has bounced back strongly this season, reaching two semi-finals before this week’s triumph. His performance in today’s final was a reminder of his ability to control matches with superb break-building and near-flawless safety.
Selby earns a place at next month’s Champion of Champions tournament in Coventry – for the list of players click here.
Gilbert has now lost all four of his ranking finals, albeit each of them against top class opponents; he was runner-up to John Higgins at the 2015 International Championship, to Mark Williams at the 2018 Yushan World Open, and to Kyren Wilson at the 2019 German Masters.
The £30,000 pay-day takes his career total earnings past the £1 million mark and moves him up one place to 11th in the world. But that will be no more than small consolation to the 38-year-old from Tamworth as he is left waiting for his first taste of silverware.
Selby dominated the first session, taking a 7-1 lead with top breaks of 88, 68, 79, 85, 130 and 97. Gilbert had two chances in the opener tonight but couldn’t make the frame secure. Selby fluked a snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed, cleared the table for 8-1.
And a few minutes later the contest was over as Selby’s break of 101 sealed the title.
“It’s amazing, I’m quite emotional,” admitted Selby. “Over the last 12 months, mentally it has been tough. I have been second guessing myself, questioning myself and wondering if I would win another tournament again. It was that bad. I was playing well in practice then in matches I have been crumbling and not showing anything, it was frustrating. To win a trophy is great in terms of getting the confidence back.
“I play David a lot in practice and that’s the kind of tempo I play at. I knew today that if I was second guessing myself and taking too long over shots, David would have been thinking I was nervous. So I just tried to play the way I do in practice, which is not easy on the televised table under pressure but I managed to do it.
“I’m gutted for David because he’s a great player and an even better lad off the table. If I wasn’t in the final I probably would have been here supporting him. He keeps knocking on the door, it’s only a matter of time before he turns one of the finals into a win and when he does that I think he’ll win a lot more.
“When I first started playing snooker, if you had said I’d win three world titles and 16 ranking events I would have laughed at you. It’s incredible. If I can win 20 ranking titles before I retire I’ll be over the moon.
“It’s great to win a tournament with my daughter (four-year-old Sofia) here because it’s the first time she has seen me win a final when she understands what’s going on.”
Gilbert said: “Mark was brilliant, I don’t think there were many players in the world that would have given him a game today. It shows the level you have to play at to win one of these things. He didn’t give me anything easy, his safety just killed me. It was a masterclass.
“I’m still miles away from being one of the better players in the world – I am decent but they are on a different planet and that showed today. I’ve had a great week, it’s brilliant to get to another final and I can take away positives. I’ve got to improve and get better if I want to win one a tournament.
“He does that to my all the time in practice. I have lost that many fivers to him, I can’t tell you. I really enjoy playing him, he’s a legend of the game.”
The next Home Nations event in Belfast runs from November 11-17, for tickets click here.