Mark Selby’s capture of a third Masters title tonight confirms him as the pre-eminent player of the season.
He has now won the campaign’s two biggest titles and returned to the head of the world rankings. If Selby wins the World Championship he will become only the fourth player to do so in a single season after Steve Davis (1987/88), Stephen Hendry (1989/90, 1995/96) and Mark Williams (2002/03).
Selby’s 10-6 victory over Neil Robertson looked likely after he opened an 8-3 lead. Robertson fought back well but Selby held on to become the sixth player to win the Masters three or more times – joining Cliff Thorburn, Hendry, Davis, Paul Hunter and Ronnie O’Sullivan on that list.
He had every right to be exhausted after his epic semi-final victory over Graeme Dott on Saturday night but in fact looked fresh from the off, winning the first three frames.
Robertson did not replicate the form he had conjured against Shaun Murphy in their semi-final, but Selby has become such a tough matchplayer that he now seems to have the measure of just about anyone.
He isn’t a flair player but neither was Davis. Neither, for that matter, is John Higgins. What they are, though, is successful winners. Selby, for all his ‘Jester’ image, is single-minded and fiercely competitive, as you have to be in sport.
I enjoyed my week at the Ally Pally. It was good to see some old pals from the circuit, though somewhat dispiriting to see how far out of favour the sport has fallen with the print media.
What has gone from backstage, mercifully, is the political back-biting of years gone past which turned friends against one another and at times led to a poisonous atmosphere.
There are still arguments and complaints but, in general, tournaments are friendly places to visit and it’s good to see that though many of the faces may have changed, the pressroom remains stuffed with reassuringly eccentric characters.
It was also good to spend some time chatting to former players turned pundits, such as John Parrott, Dennis Taylor and John Virgo, good company all and with stories stretching back decades.
The Masters began with complaints that there isn’t enough money in the game. These players remember a time when there was none at all, certainly not enough for top players to make a living without trudging round Britain undertaking exhibitions.
Maybe that’s why they spend most of their time backstage cracking jokes and reminiscing: they are grateful for the life snooker has given them.
Are today’s top players as grateful that they get to play the game for a living with financial rewards dwarfing those of most other professions? Not all are, I think, but Selby and Robertson seem to be.
The final wasn’t a classic but it was engrossing. There was some high quality snooker during the week but no higher than the finals of a decade ago.
I think there needs to be a word of caution introduced to counteract the seemingly unarguable statement that ‘standards are rising all the time.’
Are they? They are certainly very high, and there are an increasing number of players playing very well, but are they playing any better than O’Sullivan did when he won in 2005 and 2007? Or when Williams won in 1998 and 2003?
For that matter, when Hendry was winning his titles?
Finally, the people who deserve praise but rarely get it are those who come along to watch. There were good crowds all week, despite the bad weather and the relatively remote location.
As I left tonight I passed throngs of them, precariously walking down the hill into town through the snow. It was gone midnight but they had stayed to the end.
They are snooker fans, the very backbone of the sport, and contrary to media stereotyping, there are plenty of them in the UK. I was amazed by how many stayed behind on Saturday to watch the Selby v Dott match.
It’s just a shame that, yet again, the next generation were disadvantaged by an 8pm start which guarantees a late finish unless it’s a real runaway, which it rarely is.