Mark Selby outlasted Ding Junhui to become snooker World Champion for a second time on Monday night. Selby won the contest 18-14 in Sheffield’s fantastic Crucible Theatre and the city of Leicester doubled down on their success as, just moments before Selby potted the pink to seal the title, Leicester City won the Premier League title. While we did not get to see the final frame decider we all felt the match deserved the fans inside the Crucible and the millions watching at home were certainly treated to an epic encounter. In a final which will certainly go down as a classic here are the five things we learned:
5. Safety play at the highest order
Perhaps this was more true in the semi-finals, particularly in the Selby against Marco Fu clash in which the pair traded back to back sublime escapes. However the tactical and safety play in the final was top class, the safety play seems to get better tournament after tournament and although Selby is renowned as the better of the two in the safety department Ding raised his game and matched the Jester From Leicester shot for shot. While the safety play dropped off towards the end of the match as both warriors started to tire overall the standard was incredible with one frame lasting over an hour due to the level of extraordinary safety play – Ding eventually stealing that frame.
4. 6-0 session was vital
Ding lost the game by four frames – if he wins one or two frames from the opening session then it could very well be a different story. Although we look at turning points that happen further into the match the 6-0 deficit to start the game was the biggest of them all in hindsight. Ding admitted to feeling nervous at the start of the game but had he just snatched one frame while feeling the nerves and not playing well we could very well be looking at a new Snooker World Champion and the first Asian champion.
3. Ding doesn’t have a champion’s mentality – yet
Frustration, nerves, inexperience – you name it Ding had it. One thing he did not have was the mentality of a world champion. That is not to say he will never get it but the Chinese Sensation let bad luck, some poor safety shots and missed pots frustrate him at times. Selby has his fair share of frustration too but like a true champion the second the shot was played it was out of his mind.
2. Ding is a fighter
This was what always held the 29-year-old back in the past. Fragile in his early days Ding showed over the course of the match – and the tournament as a whole – that he can fight. After 6-0 the Ding Junhui of old would have slumped into his chair wishing for the end to come, certainly not the case now. The Chinese potter showed an array of emotions we seldom see from him in the Crucible even clenching his teeth in an act of grit and determination after pulling to within one of Selby in frame 21. Heading into the evening session on Monday Ding trailed by three before Selby took the opening two frames of the final session – again Ding lookede down and out but his body language did not suggest so. Quick as a hiccup Ding started to reign Selby in and took the next two frames. Although it was all in vain, the Chinese Sensation showed he has the grit to go the distance.
1. Selby’s experience the defining factor
The World Number One always kept Ding at arm’s length not letting him stay just one frame behind for long. Just when his opponent closed the gap Selby bit back to keep hold of his two frame cushion and keep Ding chasing. Selby also showed his experience and metal, or granite as the commentators referred to him as being made of, even when things went wrong for him. Selby missed two medium range reds in frame 31 – both times he was let off the hook but both times he kept his composure and carried on to grind out quality shots. The Jester From Leicester racing into a 6-0 lead showed his ruthlessness and calmness that only comes from winning a world title.