MARK Selby was taking a hard-earned rest today after dramatically keeping alive his bid to lift the williamhill.com UK Championship and return to number one in the rankings.
Selby and Neil Robertson saved a grisly baize battle for after the watershed last night, with Selby eventually sealing a 6-4 victory in the quarter-final tussle at five past midnight.
While Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy today contested the first semi-final at York’s Barbican Centre, Selby was able to reflect on a victory that may prove one of the most important in his career.
A neck injury meant Selby was uncompetitive at the World Championship in April, and it has affected his confidence in the months since, with his results in turn suffering.
Last month he surrendered the top ranking to Judd Trump, but Selby will be back on top of the world providing he overcomes the in-form Mark Davis in tomorrow’s second semi-final.
That mission looked doomed when he trailed Robertson 4-0 last night, but Selby reeled off six straight frames to leave the Australian stunned.
“It’s a special win,” said the 29-year-old from Leicester. “The way I finished off was pleasing but at the start of the match I was terrible, pathetic, and I deserved to be 4-0 down.
“Until 4-3 I didn’t really start playing the way I’m capable of playing. I finished off well and it’s surprising to come out on top.”
A break of 101 sealed Selby’s victory, after he broke Robertson’s resistance in the previous frame.
The pair slugged it out over 49 minutes of predominantly attritional snooker, with Selby eventually winning a safety exchange to claim the mental edge and the lead for the first time.
“I’m chuffed to bits to be in the semi-finals of one of the biggest tournaments we play in,” said Selby, who has a disappointing return, based on his ability, of only two major ranking titles on his career record.
Murphy was also a 6-5 winner yesterday, fending off Luca Brecel as the 17-year-old from Belgium missed crucial pinks in the final two frames of their match.
Murphy capitalised both times but later admitted: “I thought I’d lost the match a couple of times, I really did think I was out.”
Carter poses a threat to Murphy, and this year’s World Championship runner-up savoured victory in his all-Essex battle with Stuart Bingham.
There was a total clearance of 134 from Carter in his 6-4 victory over the Premier League champion.
Carter said: “I don’t feel like I’ve played particularly great yet but I’m in the semis and I’d take that.”
While Selby, Carter and Murphy are established snooker personalities, Hastings-based Davis only has a surname synonymous with greatness.
He is no relation to former world champions Joe, Fred or Steve, and at the age of 40 is blossoming late, having turned professional in 1991 and not reached a ranking event semi-final until this season.
Tomorrow’s tussle will be his third semi-final in six months and he was full value for a 6-4 quarter-final victory over the 2003 UK champion Matthew Stevens.
Davis, who had knocked out John Higgins in the second round 24 hours earlier, said: “I feel great. I was quite surprised how calm I was.”