Mark Selby beats Shaun Murphy to win fourth World Snooker Championship title

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Mark Selby beats Shaun Murphy to win fourth World Snooker Championship title - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Selby beats Shaun Murphy to win fourth World Snooker Championship title - GETTY IMAGES

Outcomes are rarely as straightforward in life as in art, and Mark Selby proved on Monday night that even Dementors can be victorious.

In truth, comparing a multiple world champion to the stifling, joy-sucking villains of the Harry Potter world — as Steve Davis did ahead of this final — is little short of an insult to Selby’s vast array of talents.

If he earned his 10-7 lead at the halfway stage of the World Championship final by smothering Shaun Murphy’s free-flowing ebullience on Sunday — at one stage forcing his opponent to go 61 minutes without a pot — he finished the job on Monday by displaying every facet of his superb all-round game, merging tactical acumen with scintillating potting ability.

The 18-15 winning margin was a testament to his collective abilities that have now provided four world titles and cemented his reputation as one of the all-time greats of the game.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” he said. “Every time you get to a world final you always try your hardest - it’s such a tough tournament to get there and you never know whether it’s going to be your last.

“To win it once against Ronnie O’Sullivan for the first time was a dream come true — to win it four times is something I could only have dreamed of.”

Described as a “snooker vampire” by Stephen Hendry, Selby is often cast as snooker’s equivalent of an unfashionable Test match opening batsman ill suited to the crowd-pleasing world of T20 cricket. Yet to do so is to ignore that just three months ago he displayed his versatility in reaching the final of the Snooker Shoot Out, a single-frame tournament with matches featuring a shot clock and lasting no longer than 10 minutes.

Certainly, if there was any lack of joy from those watching on Monday night, it was far from evident among the 900-plus capacity crowd inside the Crucible.

The Cheltenham Festival in March 2020 was the last time a full house had been allowed at any sporting event in Britain and these snooker traditionalists relished the opportunity to watch the pinnacle of their beloved sport. Too much so, in fact, with the evening crowd’s frequent proclamations in favour of their preferred player prompting a scolding from referee Paul Collier: “If you keep calling names out it doesn’t help anybody. Enjoy the evening but just settle down please.”

Three frames adrift at the start of the day, Murphy’s only previous world title had come after overcoming an even bigger 10-6 deficit against Matthew Stevens in 2005 and he was soon at his exuberant best with a fine 77 to claim the opening frame.

But whatever he managed, Selby seemed able to match. Ranked world No 1 for the best part of seven years up to 2019, during which he won three world titles and two UK Championships, Selby had insisted in the build up this encounter that he felt “very similar” to the player that had so dominated the sport.

“A few years ago I had some really dark days and times were tough,” he admitted afterwards. “My aim is to get back to world No 1. You still have goals in your career and I’m going in the right direction.”

Selby’s determination was on full display as he repeatedly denied Murphy meaningful time at the table to find his groove. A first century break after what had largely been an error-ridden opening day eventually arrived courtesy of Selby’s 107 on Monday evening and opened the floodgates for a series of superb visits to the table from both men.

With Selby one frame from victory at 17-13, Murphy produced back-to-back centuries to threaten an historic comeback, but it was not to be.

“He’s just super granite,” said Murphy. “I started the match well and he just went into super hard mode and broke me last night. It was a tough lead to give him overnight and in the end it probably told the difference. I’m gutted myself but thrilled to have been part of a great match.”

For Murphy, the result was a third successive defeat on snooker’s biggest stage, while Selby now sits alongside John Higgins with only four players above him in the all-time world title standings.

One man who will not have minded the outcome was Chris Henry, who made history as the first man to coach both world finalists. “You’ll be sacked tomorrow,” joked Murphy, who banked £200,000 for his troubles.

For Selby, the prize was £500,000 and the knowledge he had made a mockery of the wizarding world’s idea of heroes and villains along the way.

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