Mark Selby will launch the defence of his world title against qualifier Jamie Jones on Saturday morning at the Crucible Theatre.
Mark Selby’s season so far
Just under twelve months ago, Selby was on top of the world after claiming a fantastic fourth Crucible crown at the expense of Shaun Murphy in Sheffield.
The Jester returned to the number one spot in the rankings, a position that means a lot to him as a staunch student of the game.
Since then, however, Selby has endured arguably the most difficult period of his career – at least since he emerged as a regular winner more than a decade ago.
The 2021/22 campaign has been littered with premature defeats in the early rounds of competitions, a sequence of poor form that resulted in him failing to qualify for both the Players Championship and the Tour Championship.
Indeed, Selby has accumulated only £64,000 from ranking events this term – good enough for 29th on the one-year list – and recently surrendered that top position in the rankings to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The 38 year-old’s struggles with mental health have also been well documented this season, and it’s unclear what frame of mind he’ll be in when he plays a first competitive match this weekend since the Welsh Open in early March.
Jamie Jones’ season so far
After bouncing back from suspension and relegation from the tour with a solid season last time around, this campaign has been a lot quieter for Jones.
Indeed, the Welshman had really struggled until the recent Gibraltar Open, where he finally showed some form with a run to the quarter-finals.
Qualifying for the Crucible for the second successive year and making a fifth appearance overall, Jones has fond memories of the blue-riband event.
In fact, the 34 year-old has only once before lost in the first round and made it all the way to the quarter-finals on his debut ten years ago.
Jones looked strong in the qualifiers, thrashing Mark Joyce 6-1 before inflicting a heavy 10-5 defeat on Tom Ford on Judgement Day.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Selby boasts a far superior head-to-head advantage with six victories from their seven encounters in all competitions.
The solitary victory for Jones came all the way back in 2015 at the Australian Open in Bendigo.
Selby has won four out of the last eight World Championships, and as one of the truly great Crucible champions he can never be written off.
But he’ll have to live up to his master of brinkmanship moniker if he’s to go the distance again this year.
Even getting beyond this opening hurdle may be difficult, with Jones proving in the past that he has some pedigree of his own in Sheffield.
Prediction: Mark Selby 8-10 Jamie Jones
Saturday, April 16th – 10am and 7pm
Featured photo credit: WST