News : Mark Selby at the Snooker World Cup: the vampire who sucks everything – sport
Then there was someone who said something nice about Mark Selby. Whereby: Shaun Murphy’s words did not get through as a real eulogy for world champions. 18:15 Selby won the final of the Snooker World Cup on Monday evening, it is his fourth title after 2014, 2016 and 2017; and opponent Murphy, like so many before him, had failed because of Selby’s efficient and relentless game of snooker. Of course Selby is the deserved winner, Murphy left no doubt about that. “Unfortunately, I’ve known him since we were nine years old,” he continued. Murphy got into the game well, everything went fine: “But then he switched on hard mode.”
So the hard mode, it is this special form of respect that Selby is shown. His game is undoubtedly very successful: with four world championship titles, he is one of the greats, he has drawn level with John Higgins, only Stephen Hendry (seven times), Ray Reardon, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis (all six times) have them WM won more often.
But Selby’s hearts don’t fly too much: Judd Trump, the world’s number one, plays wonderfully daring. Ronnie O’Sullivan sprinkles these brilliant moments like no other. Someone like Murphy is loved by fans when he shows his fighting spirit. But Selby? He brought his daughter to the BBC studio late in the evening and made for a touching moment.
He hadn’t succeeded in doing this at the table; in the days before, many had complained about the unattractive way of playing the Leicester man. Most violently Stuart Bingham, his opponent in the semifinals. Bingham had spent a lot of time in his chair, watching Selby reflect, start a push, break off, think further, walk around the table, start again, break off again. “Some shots took him more than three minutes and then he just put the ball on a red,” complained Bingham, who ultimately lost 15:17: “That was a bit too much of a good thing.”
“I’ve lost my respect for him a little,” said semi-final opponent Bingham
There was actually a frame that lasted 54 minutes before Selby finally wore down his opponent. 54 minutes for 15 red and a few colored balls, that’s hardly possible in itself, for comparison: O’Sullivan once completely cleared the table in five minutes and 20 seconds in one go. But Selby took a lot of time, once he was warned by the referee that he should finally take his shot.
Particularly hard for the opponents: If they make a tiny mistake in this nervous game, Selby takes advantage of it relentlessly. “I’ve lost my respect for him a little,” complained Bingham. “Mark is like a snooker vampire,” said seven-time world champion Hendry: “He sucks all life and all adrenaline out of you.”
Murphy took a more nuanced view of the matter; for him, Selby is “the best all-rounder” he has ever seen. Selby is undoubtedly strong in breakbuilding, even better in safeties, the balls that are safely deposited at the end of the table. He can do the long balls anyway. “It’s like granite in all areas,” said Murphy. Murphy highlighted one ability in particular. “What he has, more than anyone else, is that patience,” Murphy said. If Selby realizes that he won’t get into a good situation at the table immediately, but maybe in ten thrusts, then he can take it. That brings few highlight videos on YouTube, but big titles.
Selby took up the matter with the vampire (“maybe because of my canine teeth”), but otherwise did not comment on the allegations. Above all, he is happy to be back: After his World Cup title in 2017, he fell into a mental hole and reported depression himself. “I’ve had dark, dark years,” said Selby, “my family knows what I’ve been through.” His thanks also went to coach Chris Henry: “I was fragile, I didn’t have the confidence. He gave it back to me.”
One of the curiosities of the final was that it was played at the packed Crucible Theater. The World Cup was chosen as a pilot project in the pandemic – the next few weeks will show whether people in the hall were infected. It was also memorable because coach Henry had put two protégés in the final. He looks after Selby, Murphy a little longer, who also turned to the mutual coach in the first interview after the match. “Thanks for everything,” said Murphy, jokingly, “I’ll kick you out tomorrow.”