Steely Selby

Mark Selby has often been coined as the master of brinkmanship.

While I have always made clear of the fact that I absolutely detest this saying, it’s hard to argue with its merits – especially when it comes to the Masters.

The ‘Jester from Leicester’ is a three-time champion of the prestigious and lucrative invitational event and he has often done so the hard way, none more so than his comeback deciding frame defeat of John Higgins in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

The win was Selby’s tenth success in final frame best of 11 thrillers in the tournament – 11th overall – an unbelievable 100% success record when the encounter goes the distance.

When the 30 year-old captured his maiden trophy in 2008, Selby took out Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire and Ken Doherty 6-5 before overcoming Stephen Lee more easily in the final.

The following year he fell just short in the final to Ronnie O’Sullivan – 10-8, so not a decider, mind! – yet, rectified the situation 12 months later when he came from 9-6 behind to pip the ‘Rocket’ in a classic final.

This time last year, en route to a hat-trick of titles, he needed two further deciders while both his encounters in 2014 have already gone all the way.

In the last 16, it was Selby himself who was forced to fend off a spirited fight back, which he was successfully able to do despite surrendering a 5-2 advantage over Mark Davis.

Against two-time champion Higgins he found himself 5-3 down and required all his battling qualities in order to get past one of the sport’s all-time greats.

That Selby continues to be able to do this, not only in the Masters but in events all over the world, is testament to the level of bottle and will to win he possesses.

Selby has an abundance of attacking talent, though it is fair to say that he doesn’t always utilise it.

However, his refusal to lose in any situation has ensured that he has remained at the very highest level, the top four in the rankings, for quite some time now.

Selby may not be favourite to add a fourth crown to his collection this week, but he certainly wont feel like too much of an underdog going into any of his clashes.

His opponent in the semi-final will be Shaun Murphy after the Englishman required a similarly gutsy comeback to see off fellow former finalist Marco Fu.

Fu appeared to be in complete control when he led 4-1, with the challenge of Murphy at that point being an extremely poor one.

Yet, the 2005 world champion turned things around with superb runs of 86, 81 and 117 to tie the game up, before two scrappy frames completed a 6-4 overthrow.

Murphy will be disappointed with how he started the match but probably pleased overall with his performance and the victory means he will contest his third semi-final at Ally Pally in successive years.

Should he wish to go one better than his runner-up spot in 2012, where he lost to Neil Robertson in the final, Murphy will hope to see off the challenge of Selby before the need for an eleventh frame.

On Friday, the remaining two quarter-finals take place with Stephen Maguire taking on world no.1 Robertson and O’Sullivan doing battle with Ricky Walden.

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