The Jester from Leicester Reigns Supreme

Mark Selby, the indisputable number one in the world of snooker, produced some thrilling shots to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan – known to many as the best player the sport has ever witnessed – 10 frames to 7 in order to win his second UK Championship title and in the process managing to break several records. Indeed, the Jester from Leicester became only the sixth player to win both the World Championship and UK Championship in the same calendar year, and he has now won two of each of the three Major titles. He has certainly cemented himself as one of the greatest players of all time, if he wasn’t before.

After rushing to a stunning 7-2 lead, at one point of the encounter it seemed that it would end up an embarrassing thrashing for the one time dominant force that is Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan. However, winning three out of the next four frames, producing three century breaks and showing his innate natural ability, Selby was put under pressure. In this situation, with the momentum very much going in Ronnie’s favour, most players would fold and lose. Indeed, in September, playing his first competitive match since April, Ronnie came back from 4-1 down to beat Liang Wembo 5-4 in the Shanghai Masters. In the Masters in 2009, O’Sullivan was trailing 7-5 to Mark Selby himself, before eventually winning five out the next six frames to win 10-8. However, Mark Selby, at the peak of his powers, was too much for even Ronnie to produce a come-back on. The title was Selby’s and was well-deserved. That five out of the final six frames were won by century breaks by either player just highlighted the immense abilities of Messrs Selby and O’Sullivan. Two century breaks to win the final two frames for Selby epitomised why he is the world number one.  And why he could be for a long time yet.

In the lead up to the final, both players faced tricky opponents. At the quarter-final stage, Selby faced John Higgins, beating him 6-5, before impressively winning 6-2 against Shaun Murphy to book himself a place into last Sunday’s final. Ronnie O’Sullivan played convincingly until the semi-final stage, where he could easily have been knocked out by the tenacious – and underrated – Marco Fu, with Ronnie only managing to scrape through a 6-5 victory. Elsewhere in the tournament, Jamie Jones impressed, almost beating the aforementioned Marco Fu at the quarter-final stage, but the Chinese former UK Championship runner-up came from behind at 5-2 down to win 6-5.

The shocks of the tournament came from father and son Peter and Oliver Lines. The Leeds-born duo impressively knocked out two former winners of this tournament in Neil Robertson and Judd Trump respectively in the First and Second Round. Peter Lines was knocked out in the Third Round by Liam Highfield, a player who managed to reach the last 16 stage of the tournament before narrowly losing to Mark Williams. His son, Oliver, meanwhile, did one better, reaching the Fourth Round, before losing 6-0 to Marco Fu. Both players practice at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, further demonstrating the huge range of the sporting ability of this city.

Now that the UK Championship has finished, attention turns to the Masters in January.  As per usual in snooker, there are a plethora of outstanding players who can make their mark and return victorious, with Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson all managing to have won it since 2011. However, aside from them, the tournament has been dominated by two players. Not surprisingly, these are indeed Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Between them, they have won seven out of the last ten editions of this prestigious Major title, and with these two players showing their good form in York over fortnight, who would bet against either of them being crowned Masters Champion at Alexandra Palace in the new year.

James Felton

Featured Image: Gareth Copely

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