Mark Selby believes losing his world No 1 status may have been a blessing in disguise after struggling to cope with the pressures of being snooker’s top potter.
The Leicester cueman became only the ninth person in rankings history to hold the coveted No 1 spot in September last year.
But he has revealed the pressures of being the leading man forced him to treat every game “like life or death”, resulting in a dip in form which saw Judd Trump take over at the top of the rankings this month.
Twenty-nine-year-old Selby, who became the game’s youngest professional at 16 in 1999, has discovered a new lease of life and heads into tomorrow’s williamhill.com UK Championship refreshed for the battle.
“I haven’t had the best of seasons, there’s no escaping that, and it was really rammed home when Judd Trump took the No 1 world ranking from me. He does know he’s only got it on loan, doesn’t he?” said Selby in an online blog.
“I was due a slump. For the past five years I’ve been there or thereabouts in the final stages of tournaments, even winning some, and I was near, or at the top, of the rankings. Lots of big players go missing for a while at some stage during their careers, even John Higgins reached only one quarter-final last season.
“But I’m not panicking about it. In fact, it could be good for me. Being world No 1 brought its own pressures – I was trying too hard, I felt I had to prove myself all the time, and I was treating every match like it was life or death.
“When you weigh up all those factors, they’re probably the reasons why I’ve struggled in ranking tournaments this season, and why results haven’t been what they should have.”
Former Masters champion Selby opens up at York Barbican against qualifier Michael White tomorrow night, hoping he can win the UK title – snooker’s second most prestigious title after the World Championship – for the first time.
“There’s no reason why I can’t compete in York,” said Selby. “That’s one of the key things of the past year or so while I was No 1, I’ve just not been competing. But I’m enjoying my snooker again and, crucially, I feel like I am competing again.
“When I was No 1, if I lost a match I would go straight to the practice table and start changing things, putting myself under pressure to find out what was going wrong. What I should have done was just forgot about the defeat and stuck to the things that had got me to No 1 in the first place.”
Selby believes Trump, 23, has a target on his back. “Judd is the man of the moment, and he will be hard to dislodge, but the way the two-year ranking system works means it could be even harder to hang on to.
“He reached the World Championship final last year, so that will be a lot of points to defend next April. It won’t be easy.”