Snooker: Doherty - Selby can land title
A MATCH that began with Ken Doherty kissing the Crucible floor ended with him biting the dust at the Betfred.com World Championship in Sheffield yesterday.
Doherty's 17th appearance at snooker's most famous venue resulted in his heaviest first-round defeat in the sport's premier event: he lost 10-4 to Mark Selby.
However, the one-sided score had more to do with Selby's outstanding all-round performance than a poor display from Doherty, who believes his conqueror could well pocket the £250,000 first prize on May 3.
"Mark looks like a guy on really top form. In my eyes he's a realistic title contender," said the 1997 world champion.
"The bar is set high with him and you've got to be sharp to compete. It was always going to be tough because Mark has got bottle, character and bags of confidence. That's what you need to do well here."
Doherty (40), who brushed aside Jimmy White 10-3 and Joe Swail 10-1 in last month's qualifying competition, had justifiably high hopes, having beaten Selby 5-2 in the first round of this season's Grand Prix.
On being introduced to the Crucible faithful -- he entered the arena to 'The Irish Rover' -- the Dubliner got down on his knees and kissed the carpet.
He then made an encouraging start and led 2-1 but Selby, twice Masters champion in the last three years, powered through five of the next six frames to build a commanding 6-3 overnight advantage.
During this impressive spell, Selby constructed breaks of 106, 90, 60, 41, 46 and 70, and he remained firmly in the groove when the contest re-started yesterday.
Runs of 39, 43 and 82 transported the Englishman into an 8-3 lead before Doherty, one of snooker's great comeback merchants, briefly raised hopes of another recovery with a late 61 break to snatch frame 12.
Doherty was also in first in the next but, on 37, jawed a routine black off its spot attempting to take the cue-ball into the pack of reds. They spread invitingly, allowing Selby to pounce with an 80 clearance for 9-4.
Shortly afterwards, they were shaking hands as Selby made 81 to smoothly book his place in the last 16.
At least Doherty received £12,000 and sufficient ranking points to guarantee his return to the top 32 in the world rankings next season.
He will stay in Sheffield for the next 15 days in his role as commentator and analyst for the BBC.
Antrim's Mark Allen succeeded where Doherty failed, comfortably progressing to the second round by beating Tom Ford 10-4.
Due to fly over on Thursday, Allen almost fell victim of the volcanic ash chaos but managed to catch a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool, then hopped in a taxi.
He arrived at his hotel close to midnight but showed no ill effects from his journey and is now looking forward to a meeting against Welshman Ryan Day or Mark Davis, who was the winner of the World Six Reds Championship in Killarney last December.