15.9.11

MARK SELBY: WORLD NO.1

What has been largely ignored in the shadow of the red or pink controversy is that by winning the Shanghai Masters, Mark Selby has become only the ninth player to be the official world no.1 since the rankings were introduced in 1976.

It is a formidable list to join: Ray Reardon, Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson.

Selby will play his first match as the newly installed top dog against Stuart Bingham at the Brazilian Masters in Florianopolis today.

He was one of many young players who benefited from the dedication of Malcolm Thorne, the snooker club proprietor and organiser of junior tournaments for more than two decades, who very sadly died earlier this year.

It was in these weekend events that Selby tested his game against the country’s best juniors, including his good friend Shaun Murphy.

He has had his fair share of off table problems to be dealt with. He lost his father when still a teenager. Selby also got mixed up with a manager who later served him with a writ before a match at the Welsh Open.

Snooker players, particularly those who have a little success when young, tend to be a trusting bunch, often far too trusting.

Having turned professional in 1999, Selby’s first real breakthrough came in Shanghai in 2002 when he reached the semi-finals of the China Open.

He beat a 14 year-old Ding Junhui in the wildcard round and then Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach the last four before losing to Anthony Hamilton.

Just 18, he was not worldly wise. This was the tournament where he tried to arrange transport for an afternoon match despite it being the early hours of the morning.

But it was also the tournament where I first saw the genuinely nice side of Selby. In Shanghai, there was a Cue Zone where the Chinese played on snooker and pool tables.

Selby went up there in his own time to play frames against the punters, something that would have meant a lot to them.

He has remained this way: likeable, reliable and professional, even though he often struggles in interviews to be as relaxed as he is behind the scenes.

The ‘Jester’ image is completely contrived and based, basically, on a rhyme but he is a young man who clearly enjoys life as a snooker professional, which is presumably why he plays in so many events.

Selby reached his first ranking final in 2003, losing a long, low quality Scottish Open dogfight with David Gray 9-7.

His form disappeared soon afterwards but returned by 2006 when he shocked Higgins in the first round of the World Championship.

A year later he recovered from 12-4 down against Higgins to only 12-10 heading into the last session of their world final before losing 18-13.

In 2008, Selby became the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1989 to win the Masters at his first attempt, winning three matches 6-5 to reach the final.

Several times since I have described him as a master of brinkmanship, winning close matches under pressure.

He did so at the 2008 Welsh Open, coming from three down with four to play to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and repeating the same feat against O’Sullivan at the 2010 Masters.

Selby has, of course, lost many close matches too. Indeed, it may be because so many of his matches go close that he hasn’t won as many titles as he’d like.

I’ve read some appalling things about Selby from people who have never met him. It is fair enough not to like a player’s individual playing style but this should not reflect on them personally.

You won’t meet many better people in snooker than Terry Griffiths and he played – with all due respect to Griff – a somewhat methodical game.

Selby’s main problem seems to be he does everything right: he is dedicated, he is professional, he tries to treat people properly. And on the table he tries to win, which is the point of playing professional sport.

These should be attributes to be applauded, not derided.

Maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem to people if he wasn’t so good. Last season he made 54 centuries, a record. At the Crucible he made six against Hendry, a record for the World Championship.

Who gets to decide how snooker should be played anyway? There are long established rules of the game. As long as a player keeps within them then it is their choice how to approach each frame, each shot.

Selby said last season that he thought he had become too negative in the latter stages of tournaments.

He has an excellent tactical game but the balance needs to be struck between attack and defence in the way John Higgins has accomplished to such great effect.

Selby has now won two ranking titles. His consistency over the last two years has been rewarded by his no.1 ranking.

A warning, though: when you are world no.1, the only way is down. The work shouldn’t stop. If anything it should increase.

And in Selby's case I suspect it will.

36 comments:

Sonny said...

Nice piece about a thoroughly well deserved achievement. To think fate had him provisionally fighting for a top 16 place prior to the rolling rankings which was caused mainly by the Premier League/Bahrain clash debacle and drawing the toughest qualifier in round 1 of the elevated points 2009 UK (a hungry Mark Williams on his way back to the top) in a season with only 6 events. He was being written off by a lot at the time who had no appreciation of the robustness of his game and his guts and will to win. He has answered those critics in emphatic style.

Some things don't really need saying though Dave. Only idiots say the nasty things you referred to. When you go out among the genuine fans, Selby is a very popular player with support from a large section of the fanbase. He also has the game to withstand the passing of time which is why I expect him to remain in the top echelons for a long time to come.

And if you take out Ronnie's miraculous 147 at 8-8 in the 2007 UK semi-final, and John Higgins snooker masterclass to edge him 13-12 at the Crucible in 2009, he may already have that career grand-slam in the bag.

Anonymous said...

i think if you can stay no 1 after the World Championship it means more Neil Robertson failed to do that.

great achievemant all the same.

Seifer Almasy said...

His negative approach didn't change at the latest tournament, it was exactly the same and if not for bad reffing he would have lost. I don't think he will ever be world champ with such a poor negative attitude, and luck won't carry you there.

André said...

Dave, believe me he's not a decent person. When he was in the world series grand finals (Portugal), he refused to take photos with people or take any autographs. He just prefered to wander around with his creepy manager Mukesh Parmar around the corridors and practice on the outside table even when there were people playing there.

RichP said...

I thought he was provisional number one until the ranking cut-off takes place. Is Mark Williams still not official number one?

Ramona D said...

A very well written article. And I must agree with you, from world's number one the only way is down, so he needs to keep up the good work.

What really pleases me is that Selby's regain some of that lost confidence (in his game and in himself). Hope to see the Jester smiling more often now :-)

Dave H said...

Rich - Selby is no.1 as of the new official ranking list: http://www.worldsnooker.com/page/WorldRankingsArticle/0,,13165~2216576,00.html

Anonymous said...

i was at that scottish final v babylon man.

can you remember who the ref was dave?

Dave H said...

Was it Jan Verhaas?

Anonymous said...

i like selby. i think he has a positive approach to snooker and life in general.

i am glad the refs decision didnt make him win the last final.

within the next 3 years i think he will have won the WC. heres hoping he does anyway (and with a bit of luck on the way)

Anonymous said...

yes it was jan. i remember caling to him during the MSI if it was 15 minutes. he looked genuinely surprised at someone up there knowing his name. (back then hed not done too many snooker events)

Seifer Almasy said...

You best get used to many heart aches Roland ;) Like the Murray fans... another negative player.

wild said...

rich

the "OFFICIAL" Rankings change after every event including PTC but the seeding list only changes 3 times during the season.

persanally id prefere the seeding list to change as often as possible during a season.

Ray said...

It really makes my blood boil .....could someone please tell me the reason why so many people like to have a go at Mark Selby? I find it totally unjustified. What the hell has he ever done wrong?
He always conducts himself in a totally professional way and he above anyone has put 100% effort into BHs vision for the future of the game. And his reward? Left out of the Premier League.
Then he's being told how he should play the game when there's nothing at all wrong with it.
Slow? Don't make me laugh.
And was that class or not when he immediately conceded the foul on Sunday?
So please stop criticising for criticising's sake.
Mark, keep doing what you are doing and don't give all this a second thought. Real snooker lovers know the score.

Anonymous said...

I can't take these rankings seriously when they're not in play.

jamie brannon said...

Me and my Dad last night we're trying to work out whether the introduction of the Brazil Masters now means that there have been significant professional tournaments played on all the major continents?

The only one that may be missing is Africa, but was wondering if there had ever been an event in Suth Africa?

Anonymous said...

Becoming world number 1 in this era is easier than in era's gone by. How can Selby's name be put alongside those greats when he has won 2! ranking titles, and no world titles, has no flair, is miserable and doesn't potray snooker in a positive light!

Bobzim said...

Aniter good article and I have to agree having seen Mark perform in a exhibition with Steve Davis a few years back he is a genuinely nice lad.
That said i would be someone who gets frustrated with the negative style he adopts at times.It's not that I have anything against tactical play,quite the opposite I love a good safety battle as much as any 3 minute century.Its the safety play with no obvious aim I can't stand, the tappa tappa stuff where ok your opponent wont pot anything but wont be under pressure to reply either. I have often wondered with Mark is this a result of his time in 8 ball pool where this negativity is the norm that when the real pressure comes on he falls back into that mindset.
That just my theory but any player who reachs the number one spot deserves respect and I applaud his achievment

Sonny said...

Spot on Ray

Seifer Almasy said...

What the hell has he ever done wrong?
---------

Gamesmanship. Most decent fans don't like it, and nor do I. It has no place in sport.

He deliberately plays slow and his negative game is not appealing. I look forward to many more losses for him at the world championship.

Bryn said...

Jamie,

South Africa hosted the Limosin International in 1979, not a ranking event and won by Eddie Charlton who beat John Spencer in the final,

Dave

Another nice feature, good to hear about the really positive things players do behind the scenes, like supporting local play zones, we would not know these things unless you tell us!

Anonymous said...

seifer said...
most snooker fans.....

which isnt true

Anonymous said...

gamesmanship was part of sport long before any of us was born (heard of bodyline) and it will be there when all of us are gone.

it is exactly what sport is all about.

LOVE IT.

Seifer Almasy said...

You may love it, but most decent people don't. And the question was why people dislike Selby. You got your answer and you don't like it.

Anonymous said...

The world championship was also played in South Africa in the 1960s, I forget which year now. Of course, Antarctica is a continent, Jamie, but I won't get pedantic on you.

On another note, without cheating can anyone name the other two countries (besides England) that the world championship has been held in?

Anonymous said...

His ranking is an absolute joke, and take away the mickey mouse tour he slips a couple of spots. Solid consistent player, but snooker is now going to pay the price for massively inflating the ptc points.

Seifer Almasy said...

but snooker is now going to pay the price for massively inflating the ptc points.
-------

HERE HERE!

What does it take to get this through peoples heads? PTC should have less points so that the major ranking events and the majors are represented better and the better players rise to the top.

Seeding the PTC differently also creates huge anomalies like Williams v O'Sullivan first round. It is just terribly thought out.

Anonymous said...

11.22 Without the PTC points Ronnie O'Sullivan would be out of the top 16 so I am willing to bet he is glad.

As for Selby, he will very soon win a major.

jamie brannon said...

I wondered who would throw Antartica into the mix!

I was counting invitation events, basically anything professional.

Let's not forget how poor crowds can be for the UK Championship, which is not a bad event, is it?

TazMania said...

I have nothing against Selby, he deserves to be NO.1 as he is the most consistent and committed player on the tour at the moment. I just hope he does lose his negative play, that is what everyone has a problem with, nothing to do with his personality. We are the customers of snooker, people eventually who get fed up with slow play will leave.

As for the PTC points overinflated, If only 500 points were given to the winner, who would play. No one. If the winner is recieving 500 then what will the quarter finalist earn? 50?

PTC was made for the players, sorry if your fav player is not playing and suffering for it, but it is their sole desicion

Tim Sandle said...

Alex Higgins would have been world number 1 for the 1982 / 1983 season in terms of ranking points, but he had some points deducted due to misconduct so Higgins slipped to Number 2 and Ray Reardon regained the number 1 position.

Tim Sandle said...

The 1965 world snooker championship was played twice in South Africa on a challenge basis, won by John Pullman on both occassions.

Johnnybigbananas said...

Having worked with Mark and his Manager, Mukesh, I'd have to say that, whilst they are probably nice guys, they are definitely a pair of strange cookies.

It's obvious Mark has a lot of talent, but two rankers at 28/29 doesn't lie.

Still trying to work out what Mukesh brings to the table, too ...

Anonymous said...

A top tariff of about 1000 points would be right for an event that carries a 10k top prize. I would have the tariffs going up by 100 points for each round starting with 100 points for those who bother to enter, going up to 600 for SF, 800 for the runner-up and 1000 for the winner.

Anonymous said...

never mind without the ptc point ros wouldnt be top 16.

if his ranking position wasnt so rotten then goodness knows if hed have had a medical problem during last weeks tournament in asia..

Tim Sandle said...

Bryn and Jamie,

The tournament in South Africa was the Limosin International (1979).

In the final Eddie Charlton beat John Spencer 23-19.

There was a second tournmament held the same year, the Kronenbrau 1308 Classic.

Charlton won this also, beating Ray Reardon 7-4.