The Englishman pockets a champion’s cheque worth £500,000.
Mark Selby is the 2021 world snooker champion after beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in an entertaining final at the Crucible Theatre on Monday.
The tremendous triumph represents Selby’s fourth world crown as he kept the challenge of his opponent at bay throughout the last day of action in Sheffield.
In addition to the top prize of half a million pounds and the coveted trophy, Selby also rises back to world number two and within striking distance of Judd Trump at the top of the world rankings list.
The contest began amid a vibrant atmosphere as an almost-capacity crowd was welcomed at the Crucible in conjunction with an ongoing government pilot scheme in the UK that is aimed at getting sporting and entertainment facilities back to normal following the pandemic.
While both players had experienced this stage of proceedings on numerous occasions in the past – Selby with four previous finals to Murphy’s three – it was the Jester who began as the heavy favourite.
Even so, Murphy initially carried forward the form that saw him mount a remarkable comeback against Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals, orchestrating a deserved 5-3 advantage after the first session of four.
The encounter swung in Selby’s favour on Sunday evening, however, with the 37 year-old grinding down his fellow Englishman in trademark fashion to ultimately take control of the affair.
By winning seven out of the nine frames, the fourth seed transformed his two-frame deficit into a three-frame overnight cushion.
It was important that Murphy came out firing in the third session as the final day of action got under way on Monday, and the Magician obliged with a run of 77 reducing his arrears to two.
A golden chance then came and went with the 38 year-old jawing a tricky black to the middle pocket when he was within touching distance of reducing his arrears to just one.
Murphy wouldn’t get as good an opportunity to get that close again, with Selby winning three out of the remaining six frames of the afternoon to share the spoils and restore his three-frame buffer.
The players were introduced for the fourth and final session amid a frenzy of cheers – and somewhat surprisingly a few boos – from the packed crowd inside the arena.
When Selby nudged further in front with a break of 66 the writing appeared to be on the wall, but Murphy took two out of the next three to maintain the same deficit at the last interval – albeit now 16-13 behind.
It was around this time that the fist-pumping 2005 world snooker champion, who was bidding to break the record for the longest period between capturing the title for a first and second time, desperately needed to find his scoring boots.
But the start of the 30th frame became scrappy, and much like the rest of the encounter Selby took advantage by winning the tactical battle before proceeding to make a composed 120 century break to move to within one of glory.
Fighting all the way to the end Murphy refused to relent, contributing two terrific tons of his own as the standard of the showdown was elevated at a crucial juncture.
But in the next frame Murphy left a difficult red with the rest over the corner pocket, and a delighted Selby cleared the table to complete his superb victory.
It brings to an end another entertaining World Championship – perhaps not an edition that will be considered as one of the most memorable of all-time in terms of the snooker played, but certainly notable in its reintroduction of fans in the aftermath of a testing year.
Plenty of good snooker was played throughout the last month, from the qualifiers at the English Institute of Sport all the way through to the venue stages in Sheffield that produced a record 108 century breaks – five of which were compiled in the final.
Pre-tournament favourites Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, and 2020 champion Ronnie O’Sullivan all flattered to deceive, but Selby was always a major threat and his general consistency has arguably been the driving force behind his victory on this occasion.
Adding to the prior titles he accumulated in 2014, 2016, and 2017, Selby becomes only the fifth player to land success at the Crucible four times, and it’s a wonder how many more he might be able to add to his collection by the time his career concludes.
That’s a discussion for the future as Selby can for now revel in becoming the world snooker champion again, claiming the sport’s blue-riband prize once more to confirm his status as one of the all-time greats of the game.
Featured photo credit: WST