Mark Selby’s shock defeat in the first round of the UK Championship means that there is a possibility that he could also lose his world number one spot in the rankings by the end of the tournament in York.
The two-time champion, whose earnings from lifting the title two years ago at the Barbican Centre will be deducted in the next official revision of the standings, lost 6-3 to amateur James Cahill on Thursday in one of the biggest upsets in recent history.
Selby has held the world number one position ever since claiming the German Masters almost four years ago but there is a clear indication now that his reign at the summit is coming to an end.
Mark Williams is the player in prime position to make a move, with the Welshman now assured of usurping Selby if he were to go on and lift the UK Championship crown for the third time in his illustrious career next week.
With just shy of £167,000 separating the pair prior to this competition, Williams can move ahead by pocketing the £170,000 cheque that’s on offer for the champion of this season’s opening Triple Crown tournament.
Williams had few problems in overcoming his opening challenge of Adam Duffy, comfortably dispatching the former professional with a 6-2 scoreline to move into the last 64.
Six further victories stand in the 43 year-old’s way of reclaiming top spot for the first time since 2011 when, ironically, it was a young Selby who ousted him to achieve the feat for the first time.
Williams, who has rocketed back up the pecking order in the last year following his astonishing glory at the Crucible to record a third World Championship success and with three additional ranking titles under his belt, has frequently claimed in recent weeks that he doesn’t care whether he gets to become the world number one again.
That said, it’s worth remembering that this is the same Williams who only a couple of years ago was threatening retirement and suggesting that there wasn’t a hope of him being able to compete with the best in the game, let alone win silverware.
Those outlandish comments have been laid to rest and, if it comes to it, I’m sure Williams will happily celebrate – something he hasn’t been shy of doing since his Sheffield triumph – being able to officially look down at every one else in the rankings list.
Means nothing to me , he can keep it
— MARK WILLIAMS M.B.E (@markwil147) November 30, 2018
While it is of course more than possible that Selby holds on to his cherished mantle a little longer, this early defeat has ensured that there is a small sense of inevitability that the “Jester” will drop down at some point in this campaign.
That is because Selby has almost half a million pounds worth of ranking points to defend between now and the end of the season, compared to just £64,500 that will be erased from the record of Williams.
Indeed, a quick glance at the provisional end of season rankings has Selby falling to third overall, behind Williams and a certain Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Interestingly, not many are highlighting the threat of the latter but should the “Rocket” perform well in York and subsequently excel in the new lucrative Coral Cup series – three prestigious events in the UK that are arguably tailor-made for O’Sullivan – then he’ll also be in the running.
You have to go back even further into the history books to 2010 in order to spot the last time O’Sullivan held first place in the world rankings.
It would be foolish to dismiss Selby completely as he has proven so often in the past that he has the mettle to maintain his status as snooker’s player on the perch.
Yet, for the first time in what seems like ages, his fate as world number one is currently out of his hands.
Continued live coverage of the UK Championship is on the BBC and Eurosport from Saturday.
Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)