Finals

Mark Selby Defends World Championship

Mark Selby has won a third World Championship title after beating John Higgins 18-15 in the final in Sheffield.

Mark Selby 2017 World Championship (WS)

Selby also won the UK and International Championships in a lucrative season. Photo credit: World Snooker

In doing so, the 33 year-old becomes only the fourth player to successfully defend the crown, on the 40th anniversary of the tournament being staged at the Crucible Theatre.

Selby joins illustrious company in Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, and Ronnie O’Sullivan who have each achieved the feat in the past, and he also moves into joint sixth on the all-time champion’s list in the modern era with John Spencer.

By pocketing the £375,000 winner’s cheque, the “Jester from Leicester” smashes the record for the most money earned in a single season.

Selby has won just shy of one million pounds in prize money in a campaign in which he has emerged victorious in five ranking events, equalling the record held by Hendry and Ding Junhui.

The final was a strange affair which didn’t really spark into life until the last few frames.

Four-time champion Higgins began the contest as a pretty big underdog but defied the odds to establish a sizeable advantage after the first day of action on Sunday.

Higgins led 6-2 after the first session, helped by a marvellous 141 total clearance, and later extended the cushion to six frames at 10-4.

At this point, many were suggesting that an unlikely triumph with a session to spare was perhaps on the cards.

But, just like he did in 2014 when he collected his maiden world trophy, Selby crucially won the last frames of the second session to trail by only three overnight.

The world number one heaped further pressure on Higgins in the third session, winning six out of the seven frames in a gruelling afternoon period of play.

By this point the final had become closer but, with elongated frames comprising protracted safety battles and a dearth of free flowing high scoring visits, it was a showdown that wasn’t living up to any of the elevated expectations.

The turnaround in fortunes suited Selby perfectly, though, with his commendable concentration levels and attritional temperament once again proving the difference in a high-profile encounter.

Resuming for the final session 13-11 in front, Selby surged clear to 16-12 at the mid-session interval, continuing a remarkable period in the match in which he won 12 out of 14 frames.

Higgins was unlikely to roll over quietly, and to his credit the 41 year-old responded brilliantly with runs of 88 and 111 sending him back into the contention.

The “Wizard of Wishaw” subsequently pulled his arrears back to just one frame after a controversial moment in which referee Jan Verhaas called a foul on Selby, insisting the cueball failed to touch the black despite video evidence appearing to prove that it did.

Selby put any disappointment suffered from that incident behind him with a superb 131 in the next frame to move to within the brink of glory.

A composed break in the last sealed the triumph, and with it a hat-trick of world titles.

The manner in which Selby ground down his opponent, someone with credentials as impressive as Higgins, was testament to how the 12-time ranking event winner has come to dominate the major occasions over the last couple of years.

Selby has been at the top of the rankings list for more than 100 consecutive weeks and has finished each of the last six seasons at the helm of the sport.

There hasn’t been a sustained era of dominance since Stephen Hendry in the 1990s but Selby is coming as close as anyone has to stamping an authority on the game.

Still only in his mid-thirties, Selby still has plenty of time to add to the fantastic list of honours that he is currently amassing, and who knows how many world titles he can accumulate in the coming decade.

As Higgins conceded in defeat, Selby is granite and there’s no better word to describe him as he underlines time and time again how difficult he is to beat – whether it’s a short or long distance format.

Higgins will be disappointed to have let such a big lead slip but it’s difficult to stay in the zone when Selby, once famously described as “the torturer” by O’Sullivan, finds his inner resolve to win at any cost, regardless of the form he produces.

It brings an end to a decent tournament which included some standout contests, including Selby’s gripping 17-15 semi-final success over Ding, but it wasn’t really an edition of the event which will live long in the memory.

Selby won’t mind too much about that, as he moves into the conversation of snooker greats with a brilliant defence of his world title.

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