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.


John Michael White said...

Fully deserved win. If you were compiling a tick list of the qualities that go into making a great champion, there weren't many that Selby didn't show over the course of the week that's for sure.

Andy (MySnookerStats) said...

Great stuff, Dave. Think you are spot on about standards, certainly as far as the elite of the game are concerned, but where there is evidence of improvement is further down the ranks, where there are now many more players who can push the top boys very hard on their day... Look out for a very interesting new season with the 128 flat structure!

Anonymous said...

this tournament has been fantastic

just goes to show SNOOKER is what were about, not ONE PLAYER!!!

listen barry, were fine without him!!

Anonymous said...

A brilliant week. I hope the future of the Masters is safe.

Anonymous said...

When Selby plays positive snooker like yesterday it is entertaining.

When he doesn't it isn't.

I can watch live ice hockey for less than the price of a snooker ticket - that is highly entertaining.

Too many of my acquaintances say snooker is "boring", to which I reply sometimes it is, sometimes absolutely not.

Anonymous said...

So here is a suberb venue with lots of room for tables if the 128 format goes ahead, yet it is only being used for a single table event.

There are other UK venues which just have enough room for 2 tables, but some will be hosting 128 events.

It doesnt make sense.

Anonymous said...

Saw the interview with Mr Hearn last night on BBC when he insisted the flat 128 format would go ahead.

I was reminded of some bosses at work who would get an idea which did not have much support from the team, and then push ahead brushing all opposition aside.

When you make a major change, if you want a good chance of success, you need the team onside.

Are a majority onside?

NewsfoxSport said...

If that first session had been replicated shot for shot with Hendry and O'Sullivan the competitors, people would have been calling it a classic.

I attended the afternoon session and was genuiinely surprised at the standard. Selby is back to old his form, not the dire to watch B game that got him through the UKs (based on his final performance).

I know the evening session got tense but quite honestly if that's not entertaining enough you should stop watching snooker.

The print media is run by idiots as Leveson proved. If upward curve goes on, press will come back at least to some extent. The issue, which many don't understand, is that many of these editors don't like snooker and let that prejudice inform their decisions. Even the BBC don't seem to want to promote their own coverage.

Still a folk sport and yes scheduling is insane.

The Blog said...

Regarding the thorny issue of standards improving... no player - not even the most naturally gifted player of them all, Ronnie O'Sullivan - has ever made seven century breaks in ten frames. Stephen Hendry did in the final of 1994 UK Championship.


"Six of which were in the span of eight frames played"


"Stephen Hendry holds the record for most tons by one player in a tournament. He made 16 centuries during the 2002 World Championship."

Also, if memory serves me right, Hendry held the record for the most centuries made in a 'standard' season - this was before Barry Hearn took over and increased the amount of events per season.

This proves standards are not better in the current era game (and proves Hendry was the greatest break builder of all time even if O'Sullivan had more flair).

Anonymous said...

Re the late finish (again) - why not just have an 11-frame match starting about 5 or 6. At least we'd all get to see it to the end.

The mid-session interval feature about the flat structure was interesting- sounds like its not ruled out for the World championships in the future?

Anonymous said...

Selby is emerging as one of those players who can win matches without playing at his best, which some of the others like Trump and Murphy don't seem able to do. Selby's biggest drawback was his extremely negative attitude which he acknowledged himself as the main reason he hadn't been winning titles, but he took on some big shots this week, shots that he would have turned down a season or two ago and it's already paying dividends. I never thought he could win the world title since I always felt the sheer length of the tournament would produce some top players playing well and he wouldn't beat them playing negative (which has been the case so far), but he's had a good balance to his game this season, and I think he has the game to land the big one now.

Anonymous said...

With Ronnie off the scene (for now anyway) I think Selby is now feeling, playing and acting like he is the world number one - the first time I have seen this - despite not playing well, expecting to win every time he picks up his cue.
I am amazed that Judd Trump is still favourite for the World Championships - Selby is a class (or two!) apart right now.
Well played Mark.

Ruthie said...

I think the problem with the overall standard now is that every player expects his opponent to be able to clear the table with ease, so whilst some keep the game open and go for it, others concentrate on never giving away a scoring opportunity: Trying not to lose, rather than trying to win. Carter's performance in the world final last year was the epitome of that for me, and I don't enjoy watching it. Selby, who is a joy to watch when scoring freely, can also become a bit too cagey at times. If that's successful, but always leads to late finishes, what happens next?

Anonymous said...

@The Blog

I don't think century stats necessarily prove a shift in standards either way. For a start, a better opponent means you get fewer chances to make centuries, so higher standards would not necessarily translate to a single player setting new records, but a more collective improvement: this was generally the case with the Crucible century counts creeping up to 68 in 2002, and then it stagnated, until the unsually generous pockets were introduced in 2009. There was a clear incline in standards from the mid-90s up to about 2002/2003.

Since then I don't think there is any evidence to suggest standards have improved, it just seems to have become a mantra for certain commentators. Is the standard of today's top 8 really any better than the standard of the top 8 from a decade ago? I think I would slightly favour the top 8 from a decade ago, when someone like Paul Hunter was having a tough time cracking the top 8: I don't think he would today.

Anonymous said...

Selby has won 2 sprints. The WC is a marathon, and one this negative gamesmanship player will never win. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Andy @ 2:45pm

every tournament is a sprint compared to the world championship

yet when Ronnie was winning these sprints you were bumlicking him like the rest of the ron fans.

cant have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

Ronnie won 4 UK titles that were first-to-9 matches and above. Selby won it when Barry had reduced it to a regular event format.

The UK is not a major anymore and the Masters hasn't been for some time.

Also, I have no idea who Andy is.

Anonymous said...

In my honest opinion i though the final was of poor quality ,Robertson could,nt pot a ball and Selby just hoovered them up slowly but surely,it was not entertaining one bit and i was there watching it.

Anonymous said...

Where do I write to complain about the racism on the BBC? With Dennis Taylor it's all "difficult blacks" and "awkward coloureds", but some whites can be just as bad!

Anonymous said...

The proposed expansion to 128 can only be good for the future of the game. Those players who want to safeguard their places in the top 16 are holding back the game. 60 odd years ago when the game was run by Joe Davis he wanted to restrict the amount of professional players so you had 2 players playing the best of 149 frames over a week in front of a crowd of 100 if you were lucky. The prize was £50, he was afraid that if more players competed his share of the cake would become smaller, He was probably right but now with world wide T.V. coverage and an audience in the tens of millions the bigger the circuit the bigger the cake so everybody benefits, the players share of the cake becomes bigger, television companies who are thinking that snooker is a closed shop between 16 players are given the opportunity to show a truly world sport, not one mainly dominated by U.K. players and Judd Trump may see his wish come true that snooker could one day be like tennis, a truly global sport. In the 1990's when the game expanded some players became millionaires but political infighting cut the expansion short and the game suffered. Now with Barry Hearn leading the chance is there again. Don't let selfish top players hold it up like they did last time.

Anonymous said...

I meant when Ronnie was winnng these sprints, as in any tournament he won that wasn't the worlds....

im fairly sure you realised that but it didn't fit in with any agenda you may have. im sure other readers will realise and take in the facts

Anonymous said...

Ruthie 1.53pm Quote {Trying not to lose, rather than trying to win. Carter's performance in the world final last year was the epitome of that for me, and I don't enjoy watching it.}

Had Carter won the 2012 world title playing his brand of hide and seek defensive snooker inspired by his mentor Ebdon, it would have set snooker back as a watchable TV sport back by 10 years.

Selby resorted to such tactics in his semi against Dott which made for grim TV viewing; and Dott broke down in the face of such tactics. Fair play to him though for going for an all-out attacking approach in the final which paid dividend so i would cut him some slack for that semi-final negative approach.

Anonymous said...

There was a crushing inevitability about selby winning the masters after his comebacks throughout it, and u have to give him credit, but I cant stomach his style of play and find it difficult to like him, maybe its because im a ros fan! But ive.still got a point

Anonymous said...

When are we going to find out the sponsor of this year's World Championship? And (assuming the ten major ranking events from this season return next year) where is the additional ranking event likely to be held?

Anonymous said...

Mark is always in there for winning. He took the UK, the Masters and between that he also won the german ptc in munich, where all the big names dropped out in first round or so. he´s a hard working man, always trying to do his best, never on half speed and always there for a joke and some fun around the table. a great guy at all an a dignified NO.1. would love to see him win the WC !

jamie brannon said...

O'Sullivan's standard in 2005 and 2007 would have destroyed what went on this weekend.

Selby has basically won the UK Championship and Masters back-to-back playing not at the top of his form. I think the rest should be a little bristled by this.

Selby has played superior snooker at the Crucible and lost.

A great tournament for five days, but it lost its way a little after in the last three.

Cymon (Belgium) said...

Seems nobody spotted the mistake in your post :-) So here it is for the record...It was Higgins that won the title in 1998. Williams won it in 2000 and 2003.
regards and nice reading you.

Cymon (Belgium) said...

Oh, and O'Sullivan won his second and third trophy in 2004 and 2008 :-) Never post late at night ;-)


Hi David. Well done to Selby. I will write a further post, regarding this, tomorrow.


Hi David, Selby is U.K. and Masters champion. Cab he win the World title, in the same season, I wonder. Robertson did well to get back from 8-2 down, to 8-6. Selby did well to win, 10-6.

I won't now be writing a post tomorrow, regarding this, maybe later in the week.

Anonymous said...


I think Dave was referring to when Williams and Ronnie won their Masters titles, not their World titles.

Anonymous said...

It's alright to keep blathering on about the likes of Selby, Murphy, Gould and Hawkins but everyone knows that a combination of Hendry, Griffiths and Ronnie would kill any modern days players and render themselves hopeless and vile if need be.

Anonymous said...

A while back I was complaining about the fact that Selby didn't win big titles and still got to be no. 1 (by playing in everything).

I stand corrected.

He still bores the crap out of me though.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to give the 128 set-up a go and see how it works out. Ok they have it in Tennis, but the first 3 rounds of Grand Slams are processional and I can see the same happening in Snooker. I think the only issue with Barry is whether he is up to the job of bringing in enough prize money - 128 players is ok if there is as much money floating around as there is in Tennis, a bit harder if you've only got a couple of events where the prize money is over £500k.

Anonymous said...

I don't like how the reporters writing about the Ronnie situation seem to have forgot he played (carelessly and badly) and got beat by a very average pro.

If ron had won that they wouldn't all be forgetting that he returned.

Doesn't fit in with the sensational..been away for 12 months crap though, so conveniently forgotten about

The Blog said...

This sounds good in theory - everyone starts at the same spot - round 1 - but I'm not sure it makes much sense in reality. The point of the top 16 was to give the top players an incentive to stay at the top. Through hard work and talent they secured the right to forgo the earlier rounds of tournaments. If all but a tiny amount of events don't have any protection for the top 16, what's the point of having an elite top 16? You might as well call it:

The Top 128.


I think they should keep the current system.

Anonymous said...

The 128 man draw comparison to tennis is wrong. In tennis they do have a 128 man draw in the 4 grand slams but not in the ATP tour events which have the best players coming in at...you've guessed it the last 32 stage.

Rob said...

I'm skeptical of comparisons to tennis. Men's tennis is massive right now because we frequently get three or four of the top men in the semis, and those matches are what everyone looks forward to, but that's surely despite the flat draw not because of it. Women's tennis also has an flat format and is in the doldrums not least because so few players are in the latter stages often enough to be recognised.

I fear snooker under this new system would be a lot more like women's tennis - the standard is too even and the game is too unpredictable to expect the best players to make it through consistently. Purists might like to see new players, but the audience (TV and live) want to see people they can get to know because they're on TV at every event, and the broadcasters and promoters do too. 'Fairness' to the players - if that's even what this is - is surely secondary to the growth of the game.

Lastly - I'm generally in support of Hearn but the Bolt analogy is as ridiculous as his comparing himself to Moses.

Anonymous said...

It's not the concept of a top 16 that creates protectionism, it is the concept of "loser" points that perpetuates it.

When rankings were updated only once a season, there was an argument for loser points since a top 16 player could in theory lose all his matches to a top 32 player and find himself off the tour, when in reality he just deserved to be outside of the top 32. The argument no longer applies with multiple updates per season, so scrap loser points and you scrap protectionism: if you lose you can't benefit at all, if you lose a lot you will sink like a stone.

As for all the mid ranking journeymen moaning about the boys at the top, then live with it: we started at the bottom like you and won matches to get to the top. Players like Gould, Mark Davis and Bingham have all put the work in and achieved their seeding. Why the hell should they start in the same round as a player who has potentially never won a professional match?

Anonymous said...

He speaks about moses, but he talks like he is a god (which we should obey or else..)

To me it's simple, Ronnie and Barry are the same: just let them do the thing they've got the obvious talent for, but don't let them speak in media (or stop listening).

Anonymous said...

nice to see mark allen posting here, 6.12

The Fish said...

Dave just a few comments on the ally pally as a venue.It was my first time there and i must say i was very impressed with the auditorium,fantastic atmosphere and no matter were you were seated you had an excellent view.Downside was the facilites,the large room were they were selling food and drink was absoloutley freezing,and after the afternoon session they ran out of food,with only hot dogs remaining! The toilets were a disgrace and there was a constant queue to get in.The bar and restaurant also could not cope with the crowd and stopped taking orders for food.Surely if your looking for a venue for something as big as the masters you would make sure the facilites are excellent and able to cope,sadly at the ally pally this was a big let down.I really enjoyed the snooker it was excellent,but as a venue the ally pally was a major disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Judging from what I saw at the Masters Ken Doherty's versatility as a pundit, MC and players was aparent.
I think he could host the Andrew Marr show until the great man returns.

Anonymous said...

re 8:17 I too was impressed by Ken Doherty's performance on BBC last week, in particular his face to face interviews. Not sure he's quite an Andrew Marr though & his accent is at times a little hard to follow.

The addition of Stephen Hendry to the BBC team seems to have created a problem, with 4 experts now jockeying for the studio seats.

On last weeks performance, Ken's seat is surely assured.

As to the commentary box - there are others who should be considered for the BBC commentary team - 3 of whom currently do Eurosport snooker commentary.

I'm glad its not my job to decide, because it is a tough call.

Who would other bloggers choose?

Anonymous said...

The feedback on the facilities at Ally Pally is very disapointing - management there please take note.

But good to hear you can see the table, I found likewise at York.

I have never had a seat at the Crucible (over 30 years of going) where I could always see the table, unless I was on the front row or children sat in front of me.

Of course normally the stage at the Crucible is much (feet) higher than where it is for the snooker.

I suspect the viewing angles and hence angle of seat tiers there was designed for the raised stage, not a dropped stage.

Yes there are screens, but I can see those at home.

Anonymous said...

It's time to see off Virgo, Thorne and Taylor. Griffiths and Neal Foulds are good value so I'd keep them around. I think Parrott excels in commentary, so I would stick him in there permanently, and rotate Davis, Hendry and Doherty as pundits.