Mark Selby eyes Stephen Hendry’s record of Crucible triumphs

Mark Selby celebrates winning the world snooker title. (Picture: PA)
Mark Selby celebrates winning the world snooker title. (Picture: PA)
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Mark Selby believes he could match Stephen Hendry’s record of seven Crucible titles if he can show the same level of durability as John Higgins.

Monday night saw Selby win a stunning Betfred World Championship final, one that was peppered with drama and saw him come back from 10-4 adrift to beat Higgins 18-15.

John Higgins reacts during day seventeen of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. (Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire)

John Higgins reacts during day seventeen of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. (Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire)

It gave him a third world title and there could be plenty more success to come in Sheffield for the 33-year-old Leicester cueman.

Higgins predicted before and after the final that Selby could rival Hendry’s haul.

In response, Selby said he was “not sure about that”, but then spoke as though he sees it as a realistic goal.

“That’s fantastic for John to say that, and I respect him as much as anyone in the game. He’s a great guy, one of the all-time great players, and for him to say that about me, it’s a great accolade to have,” said Selby.

I’m only 33 and you look at somebody like John who’s nearly 42, still getting to world finals, still winning tournaments and playing at the top of his game. If you go by that you could probably say I’ve got another eight or nine years of playing, so who knows?

Mark Selby

“If I keep putting myself through another two weeks like that I’m not sure I can get to another four, but as long as I keep enjoying it, keep putting the hard work in which I will do, then you never know.

“I’m only 33 and you look at somebody like John who’s nearly 42, still getting to world finals, still winning tournaments and playing at the top of his game.

“If you go by that you could probably say I’ve got another eight or nine years of playing, so who knows?”

Selby was drained by his semi-final win over Ding Junhui and made a wretched start to the final, but once he won the final three frames on Sunday evening to close the gap to three frames, momentum switched towards him.

The 17-day tournament is often referred to in snooker circles as a marathon of the mind.

“It’s such a hard tournament to win, physically,” said Selby.

“Mentally it’s one of the toughest sports in the world.

“It’s so, so difficult to win and to maintain your form and play fantastic snooker for two weeks. It’s never going to be the case.

“You’re always going to have bad sessions. That’s the reason it’s so difficult to win.

“There’s only four players who’ve ever defended it, and you look at the greats who’ve played the game.”

Selby became the fourth player to defend the title, following Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Higgins has won it four times, most recently in 2011, and gives himself a chance of a fifth next year.

But he wants to see a challenge come from players left in Selby’s shadow by his success.

“Ronnie’s in his forties, myself in my forties, I think we are still good players but age is maybe catching up a little bit and it’s up to the likes or Neil Robertson and Judd Trump and Ding to really challenge him,” said Higgins.

“They’ll have been watching that and seeing Mark move on to three and some of them have not won one so that’ll probably make them desperate to get back on the practice table and stay in touch.

“I still think I can come back here and do well.

“Next year will be the 20th year since I first won it and I think I can come back here and give it a good shot.

“I wouldn’t write myself off.”

In the immediate aftermath of a third world title win in four years, Selby appeared shocked to have crossed the line, but also magnanimous in victory.

“Big congratulations to John. From 10-4 to get out at 10-7 yesterday, I’d hit the wall, I had nothing left,” said Selby.

“He’d outplayed me most of the day, but today I came back a lot more fresh and played a lot better.”

Selby admitted his main thought at 10-4 down was to go down fighting, but he would ultimately do a lot more.

“I was missing everything, I had nothing left.

“I thought, ‘Just try to pull yourself together and find something, if you’re going to go down, go down fighting’. Fortunately enough for me John missed a few balls you wouldn’t expect him to and that gave me a chance to come back.”

There was one potential wobble for Selby late on, however, as he looked to go 17-14 clear.

He had attempted to play a snooker behind the black but was ruled to have trickled up short by referee Jan Verhaas. Verhaas briefly questioned his own decision, consulting Steve Davis and John Parrott in the BBC studio, but they and Brendan Moore - the referee on scoring duty - could not agree so Verhaas elected to stand by his original decision.

“I trust Jan,” said Selby. “Jan said he didn’t see it hit, he spoke to John and Steven and they saw it differently. John said, ‘Do you want a replay?’ which was kind of him. I had to get it out of my mind, you’re in a world final at the end of the day. But congratulations to John. He’s a great guy off the table and he’s a great guy on the table.”