This year’s Betfred World Championship final sees a classic clash of styles, with one of snooker’s greatest competitors Mark Selby taking on one of the game’s most attacking cueists Shaun Murphy.
With play just getting underway, we’ve consulted 1997 Crucible king Ken Doherty to see how he expects snooker’s biggest match to pan out and hear what he thinks both players need to do to win.
How would you assess Selby’s road to the final, particularly his epic 17-15 defeat of Stuart Bingham in the last four?
“The match against Bingham was a typical Selby performance. I take my hat off to him. It was a wonderful, professional, grafting display. He realised that he wasn’t playing his best, but his opponent was. He gave 100% for every shot and that is so admirable. I wouldn’t be jumping on the bandwagon about slowing the game down. This is the World Championship. He is there to win and that is exactly what he did, from a position where Bingham was dominating play. It was a complete performance from Selby. Of all the players I have faced or watched, he is the toughest matchplayer of them all.”
Where do you place three-time World Champion Selby in the pantheon of the Crucible’s greatest competitors?
“If he wins this final he could go on and do what the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis have achieved here. It is quite possible he could even break Stephen Hendry’s record of seven titles, because he is that good of a player. If he wins this one, it is within his reach. The game and the championship suits Selby down to the ground. Some of the safety shots he played last night were unbelievable. I was completely in awe of it. Even though Bingham had him in a lot of trouble, he came up with some fantastic shots. I could see what he was trying to do, but to execute them the way he did under that severe pressure was just fantastic. Eventually it broke Bingham.”
What do you think Selby has to do to win this year’s Betfred World Championship final?
“Selby will play to his own strengths. He will try to trap Murphy. He knows Murphy will go for his shots, so he will keep him as tight to the baulk cushion as is possible. He will want to close him out, frustrate him and attempt to pick him off. It is a bit like the boxing analogy of jabbing your opponent into submission. He knows that if he doesn’t, Murphy has a knockout blow.”
How do you view Murphy’s route to this year’s final and the attacking brand of snooker he has brought to the event?
“I think he has built momentum throughout the tournament, but the win against Judd Trump has given him great confidence. In the semi-finals, as well as Kyren Wilson played and dominated those first sessions, I thought Murphy’s resilience and the way he stuck to his principles was sensational. It was refreshing seeing him going for his shots, making big breaks and turning the whole match on its head. It was a wonderful performance. Wilson will be very disappointed, but he just has to take his hat off to the way Murphy played and how he grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck.”
Prior to the Crucible, it had been one of 2005 World Champion Murphy’s worst seasons in recent years, how do you think he has managed to summon his best form right at the crucial moment?
“The Crucible can do that to you. He has some wonderful memories here. It has been a tough season for everybody with Covid, but particularly for him. He’s been travelling back and forth from Ireland, doing isolation and quarantine and taking his car over on the boat. It has been really difficult. For him to turn that around here has been fantastic. I think the Crucible and this tournament gives people inspiration. I commentated on his first match with Mark Davis and he was quite ropey, it could have gone either way. Since then it has snowballed and he has been terrific.”
What do you think Murphy will have to do to win this year’s Betfred World Championship final?
“The most important thing is to not get sucked into what Selby can do and what he did against Bingham. He needs to stick to his own principles and gameplan. He needs to go for the shots he sees, not push the boat out too much, but keep positive. If he tries to play Selby on his terms, he is in trouble. Murphy can’t play that way, it isn’t his game. He needs to open the balls and try to win frames in one visit.”
How do you see the final panning out?
“It is a classic final of contrasting styles, but two of the greatest players snooker has seen. They are both Triple Crown winners that can go on to achieve even greater things. I like the both of them. I just want to see a good final that goes close, right to the last session and right to the last frame. I’m sure they will give us the final we all expect and hope for. It is going to be amazing to have the packed crowd. I think that will be emotional for both of them. The reception and the applause will be fantastic. Everybody in the audience will give them the welcome they deserve as finalists.”