Sunday 19 November 2017

'Predator' digs deep to stay on O'Sullivan's tail

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan shake hands ahead of The Dafabet World Snooker Championship final at Crucible Theatre on May 4, 2014 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan shake hands ahead of The Dafabet World Snooker Championship final at Crucible Theatre on May 4, 2014 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Ronnie O'Sullivan has branded Mark Selby both as "the torturer" and "a predator" and had little doubt he was in for a gruelling test in the final of the Dafabet World Championship.

Selby has the prey of the World Championship trophy, the only major prize in snooker he has yet to claim, in his crosshairs. And were it not for a shocking missed black in the eighth frame of yesterday's opening afternoon session, he would have shared the spoils from a session O'Sullivan briefly looked like sprinting away with.

The two-day final at the Crucible was shaping into a battle that would be defined by Selby's ability to effectively counter-attack the unmistakable multi-pronged threat posed by a man chasing his sixth world title.

When Selby dropped the opening three frames yesterday, his prospects looked bleak, but by the session's close he was back to 5-3 adrift – and the 30-year-old was kicking himself the match was not all square.

With the final frame of the afternoon at his mercy after fluking the last red, Selby proceeded to blunder on the black and could only smile as he returned to his seat, knowing O'Sullivan would mop up. Duly he did.

O'Sullivan's "torturer" verdict of the Leicester cueman emerged in his book 'Running' last year, and he added the "predator" tag on Friday.

Selby's stubborn table nature can grind with the man who thrives on fluency, and it is key to his title prospects. It was evident in his ability to slow down O'Sullivan after his hour in full flight yesterday.

And it means that finally, after Shaun Murphy and then Barry Hawkins folded to quarter-final and semi-final defeats against O'Sullivan, the defending champion apparently has a serious contest on his hands.

CLOSE

Joe Perry pushed him close to the brink of defeat in round two, but O'Sullivan has been on easy street since. Ken Doherty, the 1997 world champion, expects Selby to be able to put O'Sullivan through a battle of wits.

"He's not going to out-pot him, he's not going to out-break-build him, but he can get to him," Doherty said. "He has called him the torturer in the past – but how crucial will that black prove to be?"

Heading into the match, Selby was convinced he could duke it out with O'Sullivan, providing he took advantage when openings came along.

"I know I'm up against it. Ronnie's probably the best player to have played the game. If I take my chances, I know I can win," Selby said. "I'm a lot more confident now."

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL,

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