Mark Selby thrived in the “lion’s den” atmosphere of Wembley Arena in producing an astonishing fight-back to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in the Pokerstars.com Masters final.
The 26-year-old from Leicester came from 9-6 behind to win the last four frames against crowd favourite O’Sullivan in one of snooker’s best finals in recent years.
“There must have been 90 per cent of the fans supporting Ronnie, and I only had a few from Leicester,” said Selby. “It was like playing in the lion’s den. Ronnie is one of the best players ever, to beat him in any tournament is a great acheivement, so to beat him in his own back yard in such a big event in unbelievable.
“With the one-table set here, every match is like a final. All eyes are on you, and that helps me to raise my game. I knew I had to be clinical and not lose my concentration. Every shot towards the end was like a pint of blood but I held myself together well.
“At 9-6 down I thought my chance was gone and I expected Ronnie to win. I looked dead and buried, but I knew it wasn’t over until the last ball was potted. Then when it got to 9-9 I felt I was more confident than him. I just wanted one chance – in the end I got more than that and I did enough. I’m pinching myself because it’s hard to believe.
“Stephen Hendry used to say that if he didn’t win the World or the Masters title it was a bad season – so for him to put the Masters ahead of other events like the UK Championship shows what a big tournament it is.”
Selby gave a big thumbs up to the introduction music, which was used throughout the tournament. “The crowd enjoyed it and it helps the players to bring their characters out,” added the player nicknamed the Jester. “Being on the tour, I know that there are a lot of characters around. Mark King certainly got excited!”
O’Sullivan, who missed out on his fifth Masters title, said: “I have to look at the big picture and I surpised myself by getting to the final this week. There were only six or seven frames today where I did what you would expect from a professional. It was tough. Mark is similar to me – he’s either really good or really bad. I can’t compare him to John Higgins or Neil Robertson because they are consistent with a steady rhythm. He has highs and lows, and that’s how it was today.
“I didn’t play well enough to win so I can’t be disappointed. I will keep pitching up to tournaments and trying to compete. It’s a miracle that I have won three World titles because I thought I would never win one. If I hadn’t had the problems I’ve had in my game, I could have chased Hendry’s record of seven.
“I’m always out to win, but the battle is with myself. I’m trying not to have too many highs and lows. For 17 years I’ve been playing like a plum, and being hot and cold made me depressed. I can’t do that to myself any more. I felt it today and I said to myself ‘don’t go there’. The frustration is that if I got it right I would smash all these players up, I’d demolish them.”