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Surprised Selby completes World hat-trick after fightback

 

By John Skilbeck

Mark Selby pulled off one of the most astonishing victories in a Crucible final as he landed his third Betfred World Championship title.

When he trailed John Higgins by 10-4 on Sunday evening, Selby had looked beaten, on the scoreboard and in his cheerless demeanour, but a colossal comeback saw him roll to an 18-15 victory to claim the £375,000 prize.

There was a moment of huge controversy late in the day when Selby attempted to roll up behind the black and snooker Higgins, only for referee Jan Verhaas to decide the ball had run up short. He called a foul, briefly rowed back on his decision, before reinstating the original call.

Selby seemed nonplussed but gathered his composure, and victory made him just the fourth player to successfully defend a world title in Sheffield, after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

That level of company reflects Selby's status as a modern-day snooker great.

Selby said: "It's unbelievable really. I'd hit the wall; I had nothing left.

"To get out 10-7 yesterday I was over the moon.

"I tried to find something and fortunately for me John missed a few balls you wouldn't expect him to miss and gave me a way back into the match."

Higgins, a four-time World champion, must have been thinking a fifth title was coming his way as he took advantage of Selby's obvious languor early in the match, a hangover from the world number one's sapping semi-final against Ding Junhui.

No player had come back to win from a greater deficit than six frames in a World Championship final since Dennis Taylor trailed Steve Davis by 8-0 and 9-1 in their 1985 classic.

Crucially, Selby launched his revival late in the day, thrusting a fist pump after reeling off three successive frames and planting the first seeds of doubt into the mind of Higgins.

The seeds became giant oaks of disbelief yesterday afternoon as Higgins saw his lead evaporate.

The 33-year-old from Leicester led 13-11 coming into the evening and withstood a late Higgins flourish.

O'Sullivan watched the drama unfold from a television studio, and tweeted: "If you want to win events you need to play like selby. It's the new modern way of playing..#lethalsnooker"

Selby matches the record of five ranking titles in a season, previously achieved by Hendry in 1990/91 and Ding in 2013/14.

Selby acknowledged victory by clenching his fists and looking up to wife Vikki in delight.

Belfast Telegraph

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