World number 1 Mark Selby won the 2013 Masters last Sunday at Alexandra Palace by beating defending champion and Australian Neil Robertson 10 frames to 6 in the final. It was his third Masters crown after his previous triumphs in 2008 and 2010.
The invitational tournament consisting only of the Top-16 and rivalled in terms of prestige only by the World Championship and the UK Championship, unsurprisingly boasted a star-studded line-up missing only Ronnie O’Sullivan who is still taking a break from the game for an unspecified amount of time.
The event was rife with epic matches and final frame deciders as both Selby and Robertson’s respective routes to (what was considered the dream) final were far from straightforward. In the opening round of the invitational tournament, Robertson was forced to battle back from 3-5 down against China’s Ding Junhui before coming thorough 6-5 and letting out a roar in triumph that showed everybody from the off that he was not going to relinquish his crown without a fight. However, no sooner had he survived that ordeal before his resolve was tested once again in the next round by the out-spoken Mark Allen before Robertson once again squeezed out a 6-5 victory.
Selby too was up against it in his opening match against Stuart Bingham. At 1-5 down, things looked extremely bleak for Selby. However, as he has done so often throughout his career and is arguably the reason why he is currently the best player in world, he knuckled down and simply refused to lose as he mounted a quite miraculous comeback to come through 6-5.
Meanwhile, although the grossly talented (and grossly controversial) Judd Trump came into the tournament as the bookies’ and self-professed favourite, he too had to recover from 3-5 down in his opening match against Barry Hawkins. However, he never really found his form during the tournament and went down 6-1 to the former world-champion Graeme Dott in the quarter-finals.
In vastly contrasting semi-finals, Robertson out-classed last year’s finalist Shaun Murphy (who was perhaps mentally fatigued from the previous round’s exploits where he recovered from 1-4 down to win 6-5 against 4-time world champion John Higgins), 6 frames to 2 to reach his second consecutive Masters final. Whereas on the other side of the draw, Selby was locked in what can only be described as an epic against Dott which lasted 4 hours and 38 minutes. Once again he found himself down in the score (he was 1-4 behind at one stage), only to dig his heels in and grind out a 6-5 victory which was finally completed in the early hours at 12:28 am. Most doubted whether Selby could recover in time for the best-of-19 frame final against Robertson but yet again, he showed his gritty determination, skill, and ultimately, class to get off to a flyer and keep on the offensive to lead 5-3 after the opening session.
Once the second session got underway, Selby carried on from where he left off and his momentum coupled with some sloppy play from Robertson led to Selby extending his lead to 8-3. Although Robertson did show all the fight that led to him being world champion in 2010 by closing the gap to 8-6, Selby proved too strong and held firm to real off the final two frames.
Selby had solidified his place at the top of the game by becoming the first man (since Mark Williams a decade ago) to pick up the UK Championship and the Masters in the same season. He also joined legends Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Paul Hunter and Ronnie O’Sullivan as the only men to win three or more Masters titles.
The World Championship is the only big title to elude Selby thus far and come April, with a question mark over whether O’Sullivan will return to defend his title in 2013 (or to the game at all for that matter), you would be unwise to bet against him.
By Alastair Fatemi