With creditable candour, Mark Selby has admitted on his personal blog that he can be too negative in matches.

Selby lost 9-7 to Mark Williams in the final of the German Masters last weekend.

It was only his fourth ranking tournament final, his only title coming three years ago at the Welsh Open, although he has also won two Wembley Masters titles.

Selby said: “Other than the final, and against Graeme Dott in the semis, I had a good, quick start in all my matches and led from the front. But more often than not I am a slow starter, and sometimes that can cost me. I can be over-cautious, trying to be too careful and not make any errors. Sometimes I play not to lose, rather than play to win, and that stops me from performing to the best of my ability. You can’t lose a match in first two or three frames, so I need to start off more relaxed and get myself into a commanding position, rather than playing catch-up.”

I noticed this caution when Selby played Dott in the World Championship semi-finals last season. After experiencing the high of his comeback win over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals, Selby seemed too anxious not to lose to Dott rather than attempt to take command of the match.

He was playing well enough to have given Neil Robertson a tough test in the final but lost 17-14.

There is nothing wrong with Selby’s game. He is a heavy scorer – with 37 centuries this season, more than anyone else – and has a watertight tactical game.

The problem is knowing when to attack and when to defend or, more particularly, not being dragged into playing either game without due regard for the other.

Snooker is a sport that does not require sustained physical prowess but mental strength is a must.

A positive outlook is crucial and if doubts cloud the mind then players find it hard to think clearly. Even great players have made wrong shot choices under pressure.

Steve Davis was the ultimate all round player and John Higgins has assumed this mantle: knowing the right shot and playing it, assessing the wider picture of the match, the state of mind of the opponent and the percentages of playing in a particular way.

The other side of that coin can be painful to watch. How many times have you seen a player under pressure look at the right shot, then walk around the table and start considering other possibilities?

If you look long enough for problems you are sure to find them.

Davis’s mantra was that the key to being successful at top level professional snooker was to play as if it meant nothing when, in fact, it meant everything.

In other words: approach every frame the same way. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Stephen Hendry at his peak always raised his game when he was under the cosh. His inner belief, whether innate or formed from his relentless reign of success, meant that he always felt positive, that he could do it, that he would do it.

I remember the 2003 Irish Masters final, an excellent contest between O’Sullivan and Higgins. It reached a decider. Early on, O’Sullivan potted a long red, playing the cue ball back to baulk.

Most players would have rolled up behind a baulk colour but O’Sullivan blasted the brown into a middle pocket, went down for the reds and won 10-9.

Was that the right shot? Some would argue not but the point is that, for O’Sullivan, it was because he absolutely believed he would get it. There wasn’t a flicker of doubt in his mind.

Selby’s problem is intensified by the feeling that he has underperformed in ranking events. It’s easy to say that he will start winning plenty of them soon but people said the same of Matthew Stevens after he captured the 2003 UK Championship and he is yet to add to his haul.

I sometimes describe Selby as a ‘master of brinkmanship’ – which he often has been – but this may not always be construed as a compliment.

Winning matches comfortably means there is more mental energy left in the tank. Against Dott in Berlin he got involved in a right old scrap while Mark Williams was chilling out, ready for the final.

My advice to Selby is to have a chat about it to an experienced hand who knows what he is going through, a former player.

In 2004, O’Sullivan’s game and general approach was galvanised through advice from Ray Reardon.

When he was at his best, John Parrott received advice from the late John Spencer, Reardon’s great rival of the 1970s.

Top level sport is a microcosm of life itself: it’s all about highs and lows, success and disappointment, taking your chance or letting it slip away.

Selby is a good lad, a professional on and off the table and if he can find the recipe to cut out the negativity he has every chance to become one of the sport’s greats.

The next few years will determine whether he can clear his mind of all the doubts often enough to do just that.


Betty Logan said...

I suspect with the new disciplinary code coming in, Selby is worried about the refs coming down hard on him. It's hard to see Hearn tolerating some of the stuff he's pulled in the past.

Anonymous said...

It's been THE major flaw in Selby's game for a while. He finds it hard to strike the right balance against tough match players like Doherty, Hamilton, Dott and King, who are all strong tactically and have a habit of dictating the way the game develops against him.

Anonymous said...

Betty, i dont know about what stuff Selby has pulled in the pas. Would you tell me please?

Urindragon said...

exactly my thoughts, Dave. it's strange really, if I could pot and break-build like Selby I'd go for it all. No roll-ups to the baulk colors.

Ray said...

I don't see anything wrong with Selby's game. I think you can get paralysis by analysis. He's won 2 Masters and a Welsh Open playing this way. Perhaps he just needs a bit more mental strength. This business of playing like it means nothing when it means everything is trite nonsense. You can get in the zone while making big breaks or winning frames but if anyone knew where this feeling came from or went to they would be a multi-millionaire. It's the same as saying "Don't think who you are playing just play the balls" - it's absolutely impossible. Proof being when Davis and Hendry were in their pomp any opponents were half beaten before they started because their reputations preceded them. An even better analogy is fighters freezing in the ring when confronted with Mike Tyson.
Good luck to Mark Selby in the future because he seems a lovely, genuine lad. Sometimes it's a case of if it ain't broken ......

Anonymous said...

Good article DH. Typical rubbish from your resident puppet Logan.

Difference between Selby and Stevens can be summed up in one word - bottle. This is why Selby will be alright in years to come and Stevens fell away.

Betty Logan said...

Namely his excessive stalling tactics, often taking exceptionally long times (30–40 seconds) to execute obvious and elementary shots. I don't think it's a coincidence that Selby's decision to buck up his ideas coincide with the new disciplinary code — it's possible Hearn had a word in his ear, and now he knows he just won't be able to get away with it anymore. I'm sure the referees would have come in on it a lot sooner if they had been given free reign to enforce the rules (so he's not entirely to blame, he just does what he can get away with to win), but given the previous overlap between player management and the governing of the game the refs were probably wary of who they antagonised — discipline the wrong player and that was your chance of a world final gone!

I don't believe Selby's intention to reform comes from a change of heart, his hand is being forced by circumstance, but everyone deserves a second chance so we should welcome his desire for a fresh start. I think it will be a while before he wins back the respect of his peers though.

Dave H said...

Selby has the respect of his peers already

I've never heard a single player complain of how much time he takes and the idea that Barry Hearn has told him to change his tactics is, frankly, laughable

Anonymous said...

Who had the longer average shot time and used the deliberate stalling tactics to try and put their opponent off in the 2010 Masters final?

A: Ronnie O'Sullivan

The Snooker Oracle said...

I agree with the general consensus; Selby has the lot but his comparative weakest suit is shot selection. I think this can be best summed up by a shot he took on in Germany last week.

It was in the final at a tense stage and it was a long range blue to the corner pocket (anyone remember it?) Basically it was utter lunacy to go for it in the bottom right hand pocket with the white ball on the top cushion. He missed and Williams cleared.

It was all the more odd as he is normally too cagey rather than too attacking. He'll find the balance.

WILD said...

he has to get the right balance in his game.

i think the mistake he does isnt really with slowing players Down but in Taking the safety option on a 40/60 against pot when hes ahead in Frames instead of going for the throat Like Ronnie does and Hendry used to and still does :-(

then he lets his opponent in with hope ....when he is behind he does go for those iffy do or die pots and he gets a high % of them.

Anonymous said...

I think Selby analyses way too much these days, look at his eyes they are turning very beady, like a scientist.... I watched him a few seasons ago, and he was more fluid.... He's turnin into another Ebdon....

Sonny said...

When Selby takes in excess of a minute over a shot he's usually bang in trouble and then plays a blinder. It's his trademark as probably the best shotmaker in the game today.

To The Snooker Oracle: I don't think anyone is calling into question Selby's shot selection - he is tactically one of the very best out there. I remember the blue you mentioned and I think it was the right shot to go for at the time. He needed to start winning frames in one visit, Mark Williams was looking very dangerous and Selby had played very well in the break up till that point. Had the blue gone in - and it was very close, rattling in the jaws - I'm certain he would have cleared up from it.

It is frustrating watching him at times because you can sense he's trying his hardest to get on with it but a few slightly careless executions here and there (not the actual shots he plays hence my earlier statement) leaves him out of position. The upshot generally is he plays a good safety, then takes a while to get in again usually having to take on a difficult long pot. It stands to reason, if you score in dribs and drabs and rely on your safety game to win you chances, you will end up having to take on a higher percentage of long pots than if you score more heavily with your first couple of chance.

Also if you come up against a good safety player such as a Higgins, Williams or O'Sullivan, the balls can end up on cushions after a prolonged safety bout and makes the frame pretty much unwinnable in one visit (apart from the truely exceptional players mentioned!), resulting in a long frame using up vital reserves of mental energy and dealing a psychological blow to the player who loses it, especially when they were earlier a ball or two from the line.

My read on Selby recently is that he has been very unlucky on a number of occasions to lose matches against players playing out of their skin to beat him. Take the World Open and Barry Hawkins - Selby looked sharp and in the mood, but Hawkins played better than I've ever seen him play to win. Ali Carter played the best I've ever seen him play in the Shanghai semi against Selby. O'Sullivan knocked in a 147 in the UK semi decider against him. Higgins didn't give him a sniff after Selby took on a risky plant in the 2009 World quarter-final, when had the plant gone in he would probably have gone on to win the match and possibly the event. People may remember the Premier League last frame against Murphy when Murphy required snookers and Selby had used up all his time outs. How on earth he managed to lose that frame and thus not qualify for the final weekend was utterly baffling. He hardly put a foot wrong when you watch it back. Yet this is the sort of thing that happens to him and that he has to deal with.

In the German Masters final he tried his hardest not to take on pots along the black cushion, and in the end it cost him when he tried to develop a red instead of leaving himself on it with the correct angle to drop it in dead weight and finish on the black. That showed his confidence wasn't that great. I laugh when he's referred to as a negative player, because he has played many memorable attacking shots when other more renowned "attacking" players would have run to safety. But seeing him avoiding playing certain shots was not a great sign and shows confidence levels aren't at 100%.

It's also notable that the best Selby performances come from when he's behind and the frames are running out. This suggests he feeds off adrenaline and maybe explains why he fails to get off to good starts and puts himself in these positions in the first place. He needs to learn the art of being a front runner, if only to preserve the mental energy. Whether the way to do this is to attack more early on as he suggested in his blog - well who knows but it sounds like a good ploy to me. If it doesn't work, the adrenaline will kick in and he'll get himself back in.

Sonny said...

So in summary (and sorry for the long post guys - it exceeds the 4096 hence having to split it!) for me he just needs to keep plugging away, maybe attack more early doors, and sooner or later he'll get the lucky breaks at vital times, or have the draw open up for him with some top players going out early on and get himself into that winning habit. There's nothing wrong in taking your time to compose yourself on a big shot. It's when you can't see the obvious shot and you spend a lot of time looking for alternatives that it's time to worry, but a good win after this latest runner-up spot coupled with the fact he's acknowledged the problem will see him right and I fully expect him to become a multiple major winner over the coming seasons.

Anonymous said...

a lot of drivel from obviously people who r just fans and not players .stick to what u do best and just clap if someone flukes a ball off 3 cushions.

Greg P said...

I agree with Ray. Selby has won two Masters titles.... come on.

He can still win the world title with his current game, you can't win every match and yes he has been perhaps a little underwhelming in ranking events... but.. he didn't look totally shattered against Mark Williams. It was still a very close game. He just missed one ball to go 8-7 up. Who's to say if he had "gone for it" against Dott, it might not have cost him the match? Maybe it is just a little more grit he needs, not to change his game per se.

Also, couldn't it be a terrible move to change your game plan right before the World Championships? Maybe if he doesn't win THIS time he can go for the Reardon-type route but I think he should stick to the course for now..

Anonymous said...

Selbys game is very close to being the perfect allround package anyway.

Just afew more titles of any kind and more belief to win matches from the early going and he will be fine.

No need to panic coz he got what it takes.

Anonymous said...

I love the way Selby plays, he's fascinating to watch. And as for Ebdon don't forget he's won the World and U.K, which is more than a lot of players have done. Variety is the spice of life.

jamie brannon said...

He is not unfairly slow, but he was criticised by O'Sullivan for slow play, but that's was probably more to do with the needle between the two.

He has the game to assume John Higgin's mantle of best all-round player on the planet.

Betty Logan said...

None of the players in their late 20s (Selby/Murphy/Maguire/Robertson) have the capacity to become the best now. It's too late in their careers. They'll all be going into decline in five years time. At best they will become "caretaker" number ones like Thorburn who filled the gap between Reardon and Davis. Ding looks best placed to assume that mantle, but obviously still faces questions over his precarious mental strength and Crucible record.

Anonymous said...

Betty, you are dead right about Snooker Island. It is full of idiots who I also had to ban. Mostly annoying people who only come online to irritate people and tell others what to think.

I had good experience with the core members for over a year and anyone reading this should stay 10 miles from SnookerIsland.com

Anonymous said...

Dave H said...

Selby has the respect of his peers already

I've never heard a single player complain of how much time he takes and the idea that Barry Hearn has told him to change his tactics is, frankly, laughable


Well you would say that wouldn't you Dave, being a traditionalist. The fact is he does engage in gamesmanship and it needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

Selby is a negative player, with a negative mindset, and the likes of Sonny are reaping what Selby sows. I am afraid, until Selby changes his mindset, he will never win the UK or World and have precious few ranking titles by the end.

Dave H said...

No I didn't say it because I'm a 'traditionalist'

I said it because it's true

jamie brannon said...

I think Selby will become a world champion.

Dave or anyone: Did O'Sullivan not criticise him for slow play after 2008 Welsh Open final?

It is getting more awkward to publish a comment, you keep having to sign in to another site. Is everyone having this issue?

Dave H said...

I think what O'Sullivan said was something like 'he's not a proper player' but I can't remember exactly

jamie brannon said...

The issue over signing in, I have got to grips with, so bad news for some!!

Yeah, it was sour grapes. However, if I recall in the first session of the match he mouthed: "I'm bored" This may have been he just was like he seems to be sometimes.

That night you was an optimum display of brinkmanship.

There is no doubt Ronnie respects him, but he is not the stylist that I think O'Sullivan likes to watch, a Jimmy White for example.

However, every sport has different styles and that is important for more intriguing match-ups.

Betty Logan said...

Betty, you are dead right about Snooker Island. It is full of idiots who I also had to ban. Mostly annoying people who only come online to irritate people and tell others what to think.

Erm, what? My only issue with Snooker Island is that their "code of conduct" also applies to private communication which infringes on privacy. Obviously they have to moderate the forum to prevent libellous comments, but I don't see a valid argument for applying it to private messaging, and would probably use it if not for that.

As for Selby, I believe Ronnie has criticised him on numerous occasions and called him a "negative" player, and last year said that Selby would never win the world title, which I'm inclined to agree with. John Virgo has also criticised Selby in commentary. I'm kind of curious as to why Selby has such a cult following though?

Sonny said...

"My only issue with Snooker Island is that their "code of conduct" also applies to private communication which infringes on privacy. Obviously they have to moderate the forum to prevent libellous comments, but I don't see a valid argument for applying it to private messaging..."

I think you've misunderstood the rules, maybe they need rewording. What it means is, if you are abusive to another member in private, they have the option to report the message and it will be dealt with in the same way as if it had appeared on the forum i.e. warnings, bans etc. No one reads others private correspondence. We would rely on the "victim" forwarding the unwanted message to the moderators. The rule is required because there have been cases of people joining up purely to be nasty to others. We don't want those sorts of people as members.

As for Selby's cult following, I find it equally baffling that so many don't seem to appreciate his unique game.

Anonymous said...

if i remember right commentators even questioned if Ebdon would be a World Champion, and 10 years after turning pro he won it.

with Ebdon it was always could he maintain the intensity for 16 sessions at the crucible. answer to that is its hard but yes he could.

Nobody has played better Snooker than Selby on a consistent level over the last 4 years however he just falls short to often.

in my book he is the most likely next first time World Champion taking nothing away from Ding but out of the two of them Selby has the better mindset to apply himself at the crucible.

Anonymous said...

jv is so far up rons bum its no wonder you heard his voice when ronnie was slagging selby.

selby has not done anything against the rules, but because some players want to watch him commit attacking suicide and he doesnt, they slag him.

Betty Logan said...

Quite a few players have played consistently better than Selby over the last four years: Higgins has won two world titles and a UK in that period, and along with Ding has been the most consistent player over the last 18 months. Ronnie probably had the strongest season of all players from the last four years with the 2007/2008 season. If Selby has played consistently better than Robertson over the last 4 years then how come Robertson got to number 1 while Selby only reached a career high of number 4? Since he reached the world final four years ago Selby has been a solid top 8 player for the most part but I really don't see anything that sets him apart.

Basically you have Higgins, Robertson and Ding who are a cut above everyone else at the moment, and Ronnie is the joker in the pack and you would expect him to be back among the elite if he mentally commits. After that you have Williams, Murphy and Selby as the players who can produce top drawer performances but aren't really doing it regularly enough to be dominant forces in the game. Then you have Carter and Maguire who are dangerous but are not really world class talent.

Anonymous said...

they have won more consistently but Selby has played to a higher Level he just cant for whatever reason Convert Form in to Titles.

Anonymous said...

We don't want those sorts of people as members.

You have a collection of the worse abusers there I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Selby is in a situation now, all of the best players experience one day. He is not longer the hunter but the be hunted. That's the reason his opponents try their very best against him. He is a landmark in the player's landscape already. So he is not to blame for trying all the best he can do to withstand the waves against him and his position. But it becomes mentally more difficult for him as he get more and more to loose then to win. But he can be proud. There are not many players who will reach that stage in their career.

Anonymous said...

-But he can be proud. There are not many players who will reach that stage in their career.-
being hunted and at the same time having won howt. frustrating.