Ahead of the upcoming World Championship, let’s have a look at how the top 16 seeds have been getting on during the interrupted 2019/20 campaign.
With two ranking titles and a return to winning ways on home soil, Mark Selby’s season has to be considered a success overall.
Indeed, the former world number one has been a fairly regular fixture at the business end of tournaments right throughout this lengthy term.
Selby’s ranking may have dropped a place from sixth to seventh, but overall he’ll likely be pleased that his form has in some way returned following what was a difficult spell by his standards.
The “Jester” had collected one Chinese ranking title in each of the previous two seasons, but in general he was not producing the kind of level that brought him sustained success between 2014 and 2017.
It wouldn’t be right to say that the three-time world champion is back to his very best, but he is a contender again after a couple of years in which he frequently struggled to feature at the latter stages of competitions.
This season began with back-to-back semi-final appearances in the International and China Championships, and with match victories under his belt he headed to the English Open in October in the mood for glory.
Selby hadn’t claimed silverware in the UK since the last of his three world titles, but after reaching the final he humbled David Gilbert with a 9-1 thrashing in Crawley.
A 5-4 loss to John Higgins in Northern Ireland ended the slim hopes of earning the £1 million Home Nations bonus.
When Selby subsequently bagged the Scottish Open crown in Glasgow just before Christmas, it magnified just how close he actually could have come to entering the Welsh Open with the enormous jackpot within his sights.
The deep runs weren’t as forthcoming in the second half of Mark Selby’s season, though.
In fact, Selby only reached two more quarter-finals before the enforced lockdown, and although the 37 year-old won his opening match to reach the last four of the rescheduled Tour Championship in June, the Englishman was duly hammered 9-2 by Mark Allen.
At the Crucible, Selby has proven in the past that he can become a different animal, with his all-round game and unflinching temperament perfectly suited to the longer format.
WST staged its first official virtual sport event during the lockdown, with Mark Selby’s character in the Snooker 19 video game emerging as the virtual world champion.
The real Selby will be hoping to replicate that performance on the genuine stage in Sheffield, but his quarter of the draw is already a difficult one.
Neil Robertson, Barry Hawkins, and Shuan Murphy represent the three other seeded competitors in the bracket, with the latter set to be Selby’s likely opponent in the last 16.
Selby has only won one match at the venue since 2017, so his first objective will be to simply get off to a good start.
Featured photo credit: WST