It's been a while since my last post. I've been busy elsewhere. As everybody already knows, Mark Selby has conquered the Crucible for a fourth time. Congratulations to the newly crowned world champion! Selby has now equaled John Higgins' record of four world titles and therefore can be considered one of the most prolific winners in the history of the game. Selby became world champion for the first time back in 2014, when he beat O'Sullivan 18-14 in the final. A second world title came in 2016 when he beat Ding Junhui 18-14. Selby successfully defended his title in 2017, denying John Higgins his fifth world title. In sum, that's the best anyone has ever done at the Crucible since 2014. He seems to always have the upper hand in the mental battles which are part of the game. Regarding the rankings, Mark Selby is now the world number two and is not that far behind from the world number one Judd Trump.
Selby looked sharp since the beginning of the tournament as he comfortably defeated Norway's Kurt Maflin 10-1 in the first round. His next opponent was Mark Allen, who got beat 13-7. Selby breezed through the quarterfinals by defeating Mark Williams 13-3. The next player in his way was Stuart Bingham. At last, one could say that was highly contested match that saw Selby through as he beat Bingham 17-15. Selby's opponent in the final was an in-form Shaun Murphy.
Murphy had not had the best of seasons but sprang to life just in time for Sheffield. I would never have guessed that Murphy would go that far. At the end of the second session on Sunday, Selby was leading 10-7. On Monday (it was a holiday in the UK), Selby kept his lead until the very end, thus defeating his opponent 18-15. I'm not going through the details on how the final unfolded because that has already been done by WST on their official website (wst.tv/the-final-frame-by-frame). Murphy won his first and only world title back in 2005. He also appeared in the final in both 2009 and 2015. It is true that Murphy came short for a third time, but he got a nice second prize for being runner-up: Murphy has booked his place in the Champion of Champions that will take place between November 15th and 21st at the Bolton Whites Hotel in Bolton, England.
Okay, great! But what happened to the other guys who were favorites? The world number one Judd Trump lost in the quarterfinals to the runner-up Shaun Murphy 13-11. The press' favorite Neil Robertson also lost at this stage to Kyren Wilson 13-8. Because he had shown his best form at the Tour Championship, the media expected Neil Robertson to win a second title. There is a lesson to be learned here: because the World Championship is a marathon, it is even more unpredictable than other tournaments. Be cautious when making predictions. A much worse outcome came to the defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, who lost in the second round to Anthony McGill after suffering a deciding frame. Despite having played in five finals, O'Sullivan reached the end of the season without lifting a trophy. John Higgins also lost in the second round to his "classmate", Mark Williams.
The young players Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski made their debut in the commentary box during the World Championship. That is a huge thumbs up for BBC (I don't really like BBC, but I must admit it was a pretty good idea). It was refreshing to have both players as commentators and people on social media liked it very much. Perhaps that is the first step towards making the game more attractive to a younger audience. I really hope to see them commentating again. And finally, the hottest topic of this year's WSC: Mark Williams' break-off shot. John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan also adopted this conservative break-off. Rumor has it that some players were asked whether the shot should be banned or not. I find it funny that people were even considering the ban. What nonsense! The break-off is legal, and after two or three shots, the frame develops in the same way as those that start in the conventional way.
World number one Judd Trump is the Player of the Year (Season?) for the third time in a row. The media chose Mark Selby as Snooker Journalists’ Player of the Year, but I agree with the public on electing Judd Trump. Selby is the reigning world champion and has won another two titles during the season, but Trump has won more (5 titles) and has been more consistent. Selby also won the Performance of the Year award for his run at the Crucible. I strongly disagree on the latter. John Higgins has shown the form of his career at the Players Championship and thus was the only winner of the Performance of the Year award in my humble opinion.
David Lilley (45) became the champion of the World Seniors Championship for the first time by defeating the defending champion, Jimmy White, in the final. Jimmy White had hopes of defending his title for a second time; he was 3-0 down in the final and managed to draw level, but Lilley won the last two frames and the match 5-3. To get to his third consecutive final, White defeated a very tough opponent, the Brazilian Igor Figueiredo, in the semifinals (4-1). Much has been said about Figueiredo's appearance at the World Seniors. A lot of people on social media were saying that it was unfair, because he is playing on the main tour (note that White, Hendry, and Doherty are also competing on the main tour). The only thing I cannot understand is why people started complaining after he won the match against Stephen Hendry, when the tournament had already begun. People may have a point here, but my countryman is not to blame - he was invited to participate! In the end it was a good season for Igor Figueiredo as he managed to stay on the main tour for the next season and is currently the world number 75.
Scotland's Alan McManus has retired from the main tour after 31 years as a professional. I have no idea if the Scottish is going to play on the World Seniors. He is going to keep working as a commentator, though. The former world champion Dennis Taylor also announced his retirement from competitive snooker after losing to Barry Pinches at the World Seniors Championship. He, too, shall be back in the commentary box soon enough. And finally, Barry Hearn, Chairman of WST, also announced his retirement. I'm quite new to snooker so I don't know how the circuit was like before he took over as Chairman. From what I can tell, he was responsible for the revival of snooker after a period of slumber. As a snooker fan, I hope the new Chairman, Steve Dawson, can be as passionate as his predecessor.
There is new ranking event in the WST calendar, the Turkish Masters. Obviously, it is going to take place in Turkey, in a city called Antalya. Players will need to win one match in a qualifying round in August before buying tickets to Turkey. The Turkish Masters shall start in September with 64 players in contention. I find it nice to have tournaments held in other countries. I am particularly curious to see if the United States could ever host a snooker tournament. The truth is that people are bored to death with the pandemic situation going on for so long. In addition, all those travel restrictions in the West didn't seem to have any effect on preventing the spread of the disease, which has run its course regardless of government admonishments. Snooker shall be back in July. I'm looking forward to the 2021/2022 season!
Featured images credit: wst.tv