Moments after securing the 19.com English Open title at the K2 in Crawley, Mark Selby sits before media for a press conference. They ask questions he has been waiting 13 months to answer.
“How does it feel to be back in the winners’ enclosure, Mark?”
Winners are often visibly excited or shocked, but the three-time world champion is calm. Not because he has just been rewarded with a cheque for £70,000, nor for the presence of the Steve Davis Trophy that has accompanied him to World Snooker’s media centre at the Sussex venue. It is something simpler, something intangible. He has the air of a champion; the conviction has returned. Long pots are hitting the back of the pocket. Position is precise. Safety is tight. While the Jester’s humour remains, the poker face is back.
With an almost immaculate final performance, Selby has beaten practice partner David Gilbert 9-1, missing seven balls. Over the course of a difficult year – spent thinking “will I ever win a tournament again” – the 16-time ranking event winner has been praised for showing characteristic resolve, grit and battling qualities after coming from behind to clinch hard-fought match wins. But a battle this best of 17 final was not. Few could dream of competing with Selby in this mood. At 4-0, some were calling Gilbert’s task impossible, and their concern for the Tamworth cueist could only have heightened when the afternoon session ended 7-1.
Getting over the line can be tough on the mind. A player with a six-frame advantage can be forgiven for being complacent. Not Selby, who quashed his opponent’s hopes of a fightback by stealing the opening frame on the black before clinching his first ever Home Nations silverware with a century.
Selby celebrates with wife Vikki and daughter Sofia
“He’s a legend,” Gilbert remarked in a post-match interview prior to Selby’s arrival in the media centre. With Selby adding a 16th ranking trophy to his cabinet, Gilbert’s superlative is close to an accurate description of the Leicester cueist’s status in the game.
On a memorable Sunday, there are two reminders that this potting machine is human; wife Vikki and daughter Sofia sit amongst an enchanted crowd. It is sometimes easy to forget that sportspeople make great sacrifices to compete on the world stage. Selby has a few hours to celebrate with his family before the next event in his hectic calendar pulls him away. A mammoth journey to the Far East begins less than 24 hours after lifting the Steve Davis trophy in Crawley. The World Open in Yushan follows an event in Haining, before an immediate return to the UK for more televised snooker at the Champion of Champions, a potentially highly-profitable reward for this long-awaited ranking title triumph.
Last season saw Selby knocked off top spot in the world rankings – a coveted position he held for four years. The latest holder, Judd Trump, became the first player in snooker history to surpass £1million in prize money during one campaign. What would be the perfect response? Winning £1million in a single series! That is the prize for winning all four Home Nations events; a prize available to Selby, and Selby alone.
The Jester’s next performance will be at the Yushan World Open, which kicks off on Monday 28th October, live on Eurosport.