Mark Selby has won the 2017 International Championship after a 10-7 victory over Mark Allen in China on Sunday.
The Englishman successfully defended the title in Daqing, capturing a 13th ranking event trophy of an illustrious career as well as pocketing £150,000.
Selby once again showed his dominance over the longer format, having now only lost a single match of more than one session since a semi-final defeat in this very event two years ago.
The 34 year-old also extends his advantage at the top of the world rankings, with more than double the prize money accumulated compared to Ding Junhui – his nearest challenger in the standings.
Selby has earned that position of power thanks to his overall consistency over the last number of seasons, but perhaps primarily for his tendency to produce his very best snooker in the biggest tournaments.
The “Jester” has claimed the last five most lucrative ranking competitions on the calendar, including the International twice, a brace of World Championships, and the UK Championship last December.
Selby has built up a reputation of being granite on the table, but his ability to mix all the aspects of the game, both attacking and defensive, and an understanding of the correct approach to take at the right time, has underlined his credentials as the best player in the world.
It was a slow start to this campaign following an initial toe injury that left him sidelined for the opening events in the summer, before a spell of rustiness left some to wonder if he had lost his winning touch.
Yet, it was foolish for anybody to doubt him and once he got back into the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time this term, as was the case this week, it was instantly back to business.
Triumph in the final, despite a creditable performance from a resurgent Allen, never really looked in doubt after he established a 3-1 mid-session lead.
At that stage, the showdown was living up to the billing, with the pair trading sizable contributions in entertaining exchanges.
An incredible seven out of their previous eight encounters with one another had gone the distance and it looked like another close affair could be in prospect.
But Selby began to take control, extending his cushion to 6-2 before a timely 137 from his opponent at the conclusion of the first session offered a glimmer of hope.
Allen required a fast start upon the game’s resumption but it didn’t materialise, with a controlled display from Selby seeing him pull away to 8-3 in front.
It should have been 9-3 but Allen escaped with the twelfth frame and a subsequent 78 helped him pull back to within three again at the last interval.
Selby’s highest break of the contest, a timely 90, sent him to the brink of glory and, despite being made to wait a couple of frames longer after Allen took advantage of a nervy and scrappy spell, the three-time world champion eventually sealed his latest success.
It was a disappointing finish to the tournament for Allen, who also misses out on a place in next week’s Champion of Champions with the 16th spot in Coventry instead going to a relieved Neil Robertson.
However, the Northern Irishman will be delighted with his form overall and is certainly back where he belongs after a lengthy period in the doldrums last season.
In snooker terms, the International Championship was actually an enjoyable tournament, with the longer format providing plenty of dramatic ties – including several thrillers that went the distance.
Kyren Wilson compiled a maiden 147 break of his career, while the tournament saw a new star properly born with Yan Bingtao’s run to the last four featuring victories over Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins.
That said, it was a disappointing trip to Daqing for other reasons, with awful crowds for the majority of the week resulting in the players competing amid a cold backdrop of a silent atmosphere.
Money talks, though, and a new mega deal has already been signed to sadly keep the event in the city for the next three years.
Selby probably won’t mind too much and he’ll likely look forward to returning in twelve months time looking to complete the hat-trick.
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