Mark Selby skips Belfast to prepare for UK Championship bid

Mark Selby wants to cap off the best year of his career by winning the Betfred UK Championship.

Mark Selby.

The world champion and world No 1 will miss next week’s Coral Northern Ireland Open as he prepares for the UK finals which cue off on Tuesday November 22.

Since lifting the world title at Sheffield’s Crucible in May, Selby has reached the semi-finals of the European Masters, runner-up in the Shanghai Masters and won the Paul Hunter Classic and International Championship.

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The 33-year-old from Leicester has already banked over £600,000 this year and faces Andy Hicks in the first round at York’s Barbican.

“It has been a great start for me,” said Selby. “I’ve won a couple of tournaments (the Paul Hunter Classic and International Championship) and consistently been at the business end of tournaments. Hopefully I can keep it going throughout the season.

“York is a great city and a great venue. It’s a huge tournament and I couldn’t be going into it in much better form.

“Last year I wasn’t feeling good about my game going into it and ended up losing 6-0 to Neil Robertson in the semi-finals.

“This time I am full of confidence and I feel I have a chance of winning it.”

Despite finally landing the world title in 2014, Selby believes 2016 has been a vintage year, and the best of his career.

“It’s looking that way,” he said. “Obviously winning the world title for the first time in 2014 was a huge moment for me, but then in the first half of the following season I struggled, I couldn’t relax and play my own game.

“I learned a lot from that experience and this time I am coping with being World Champion better – and I’ve proved that in my results.

“I don’t doubt myself any more because I have achieved everything I wanted to in snooker. Even if I never won another tournament I could still put my cue away and be happy.”

Surprisingly, Selby has only won the UK title once, in 2012 when he beat Shaun Murphy in the final.

He said: “It wasn’t a great match standard wise. I just did my usual of relying on my B game and ended up taking the last four frames to win 10-6.

“Before that, the only Triple Crown event I had won was the Masters, so to get the UK under my belt as well was massive,” added Selby.

On Friday, Ronnie O’Sullivan rattled in three centuries as he booked his place in the final of the Dafabet Champion of Champions in Coventry with a 6-2 win over Mark Allen.

O’Sullivan had to be on top form to repel Allen, who scored two centuries of his own as he twice dragged the match back level in the early stages.

But the former world champion was in the mood to get the job done and successive breaks of 73, 124 and 109 moved him within one frame of victory.

Allen made the first move but O’Sullivan coolly wrapped up the match with a break of 59 to set up a final clash with fellow veteran John Higgins.

Higgins - winner of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou last week - continued his superb run of form with a 6-5 win over Ding Junhui in the other semi-final.

Ding hit four centuries in the match as he twice pulled back an early deficit then nudged his way into 3-2 and 5-4 leads respectively.

But nerveless Higgins won the last two frames to move closer to claiming back-to-back titles at the age of 41.

The Betway UK Championship runs from November 22 to December 4 at the York Barbican. Tickets start at £7, for details call 0844 854 2757 or visit