Saturday 14 December 2019

Relentless Mark Selby grinds down Ronnie O'Sullivan to claim maiden World title in style

John Skilbeck

Mark Selby rocked Ronnie O'Sullivan with one of the great Crucible comebacks as his tenacity and sheer appetite for the task was rewarded with a first World Championship title.

The great 'Grinder' of the sport, Canada's Cliff Thorburn, was on hand to witness Selby gnaw at O'Sullivan's supreme confidence, wearing down the man who was chasing a third successive world title, and sixth of his career.

Selby ran out an 18-14 winner of snooker's ultimate prize, having been 8-3 and 10-5 behind and looking primed to become another in a long line of O'Sullivans victim in Sheffield.

He clinched it with an exceptional clearance of the colours, holding his nerve as though it was he who had won this title five times in the past.

Selby punched the air in delight, the new world number one feeling the emotion before laying his hands on the trophy for the first time.

Selby told BBC2: "(It's) amazing really.

"It couldn't be better. You want to win it with Ronnie in the tournament and there's no better way than playing him in the final.

"I want to thank all my supporters, my wife Vikki and the family and everyone who's stuck by me."

Reflecting on his comeback, he added: "I was just my usual self, dug in and never gave in. I didn't play pretty snooker early in the match but towards the end I played well.

"It was a tough day yesterday. The last two frames were huge. To get back to 10-7 - any other score, I had no chance."

Having lost the finals of this season's UK Championship and World Open, Selby was relieved to find his form on the big occasion this time around.

"I was sort of half-dreading coming to the World Championship because my form wasn't great," he said.

"I got back from China, I didn't play that well out there, and I just put in the hard work. Something seemed to click, and I came here confident."

O'Sullivan began his interview in what has become his trademark style, saying: "I just want to congratulate Mark on a fantastic tournament.

"He's been the best player these last 17 days and had another good season."

O'Sullivan missed a simple pink in the final frame of Monday afternoon's session which would have taken him 12-11 up, but he said: "The black last night at 10-5 was the more important one.

"If we'd both been going hammer and tongs, a ball like that (pink) could have been a turning point but it was more about safety at that point.

"He just outfought me, outbattled me. It was tough. He had me in all sorts of trouble for two days. I tried my best but he was too tough and he's a worthy champion.

"Four or five years ago I would have freaked out in that match but I never gave up. I'm sorry for not giving the performance but I tried my hardest."

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