The UK Championship, as one of snooker’s truly great events, deserves a high quality final and it is surely going to get one as Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy cross cues in York today.

Both of these players could be out by now. Selby was 3-0 down to Ryan Day in the last 16 and 4-0 down to Neil Robertson in the quarter-finals.

Murphy could have lost 6-4 or 6-5 to Luca Brecel in the quarters and was of course 8-4 down to Ali Carter in the last four.

But they have battled through to the final and the stage is set for a fascinating denouement to a tournament which began long before either was born.

Murphy has the edge 8-5 in previous meetings but Selby won their only contest over a longer distance than best of 11, 17-16 in the semi-finals of the 2007 World Championship.

Selby and Murphy grew up together playing on the then thriving junior circuit. It was here that they learned about matchplay, about the competitive game, about how snooker was not just a bit of fun but about winning or losing.

It was Selby who first made a professional breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals of the 2002 China Open in Shanghai at the age of 18.

He was a naive teenager back then. So disorientated was he by jetlag and a rare foray outside British shores that he was found in the hotel lobby at 1 in the morning trying to hail a taxi for a 2pm start. Despite the darkness he thought it was the afternoon.

Selby beat both Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan in this tournament but soon went backwards, falling down the rankings. However, in the first round of the 2006 World Championship he beat John Higgins and hasn’t looked back since.

A year later he faced Higgins in the Crucible final. In 2008 he won the Masters at his first attempt and the Welsh Open. Another Masters title followed in 2010. Last year he won the Shanghai Masters. He became world no.1 and, after only a few weeks, has wrestled top spot back from Judd Trump regardless of what happens in York today.

Murphy was always a talented potter and twice qualified for the Crucible as a young professional but, like Selby, was going backwards before the 2004/05 season.

Here, he reached his first ranking tournament semi-final at the British Open. He was thrashed 6-0 by John Higgins but got a taste of the big time and duly qualified for the Crucible again the following spring.

Playing with maturity beyond his years, he won the world title, only the second qualifier to do so. He was simply brilliant, bringing his formidable attacking game to the fore with deadly effect.

Since then he has at times struggled to find the balance between attack and defence but against Carter he produced a performance as good as you will see, knocking everything in and really owning the arena.

These two are good friends and staunch supporters of the game. They play in just about everything and are genuinely grateful for the life snooker has given them.

Snooker needs superstars but it also needs dedicated professionals and it has two in today’s showpiece final.

I think Murphy will win if he produces the blitz of potting and break building he conjured against Carter.

Selby, though, is a great all round match player with guile, pluck and patience in abundance.

When they were boys, pitching up at snooker clubs of a weekend for junior events, these were days they dreamed of being involved in.

The UK Championship is steeped in history and, for Selby or Murphy today, glory awaits.


Anonymous said...

I think it could be a classic. Still not sure about this venue though - seems cavernous and somewhat lacking in atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

Never liked the Barbican, always found it soulless compared to Preston Guild Hall, but the crowds do support the event well. The rows of empty seats at Telford didn't do the game any favours.

Selby's career has been pretty weird. He seemed to stagnate for a few years and his ranking hovered in the 30s for a several seasons, which seemed his natural level. Then all this protracted stalling started and it has to be said it has worked out well for him, although it seems less effective against the top players in the latter stages of events, which is why he struggles to land titles. You can't blame him for it really though, I'd do it if it took me from 30+ to number 1 in the rankings.

I just hope Murphy dictates the pace of this match otherwise we'll be hearing cries for a shotclock at ranking tournaments again.

Claus said...

I'll definitely be hoping for a Smurf victory today. His general attitude towards the game and his beautiful comeback against Ali has really won me over.

It's gonna be a good one.

Anonymous said...

Let us all hope Murphy wins for the sake of attacking Snooker. Not the boring player who ruins Snooker.

Go on Murphy. MARMALISE HIM.

Anonymous said...

The UK is no longer a "major". How can it be with rounds at first to 6? That is not a test and it is probably the reason Trump went out to name a few. The format is a joke. The only tournament still left that provides a test is the World Championship. How long will it be until that's changed?

It is no surprise that Selby has reached his first UK final considering the shorter format. Watch him fold like a cheap pack of cards at the World Championship.

Anonymous said...

Don't suppose there is much chance of this being over by 10 o'clock so I can watch The Expendables on channel 5. Can't even tape it now since the switchover.

NewsfoxSport said...

Wel actually Selby has great record at the Worlds. I said on Twitter a low value punt on Brecel for the semis was worth considering. Pleased even though I was one frame out. Selby though reminds me out Dott at the Worlds. I actually felt like I was watching someone on the way out against Robertson. The Selby I want to see is one who played those classic games v Higgins and ROS. His safety and determination now makes him the new Ebbo. He'll be a threat but he'll also get run through by likes of Judd and co. Second very unpredictable BBC major. Great to see Murphy playing at his best. Wins too many games with his B form and then comes up short.

Anonymous said...

come on Selby!

Anonymous said...

If Murphy wins, the match will end about 2am!!!!

Anonymous said...

I loved the science fiction at the mid-session interval, where they were going on about how high the standard is these days, and then we cut back to this crap. The standard at the top is nowhere near where it was 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

"I loved the science fiction at the mid-session interval, where they were going on about how high the standard is these days, and then we cut back to this crap. "


I don't think the late hours for the final helped the quality (and this seems to happen with most late ending finals). I'm sure most players suffer some mental fatigue after 9pm! Their snooker brain shuts down a bit. They tend to miss more.

7pm for all evening sessions should become the standard start time for all BBC snooker events.

kildare cueman said...

Disappointing final. Suppose they cant all be classics. I just think when Selby is involved, the entertainment value goes out the window.
Does he have to go for a walk around the table after every shot?

Anonymous said...

I love watching Selby. I love how he has to go walking round the table after EVERY shot.