By Nigel Slater
MARK Selby has won his first UK Championship title after battling to a 10-6 victory over Shaun Murphy.
In a match which saw mainly tactical battles played out on the table, The Jester from Leicester added to his two Masters titles with a gutsy display of tough matchplay snooker after he pulled away from the former world champion winning the final four frames of the match.
Winning the UK Championship completes a superb week for Selby. As not only lifting the biggest title of his career, he has also climbed back to the top of the world rankings taking over from Judd Trump’s short reign.
Murphy, who made brilliant comebacks to defeat Luca Brecel and Ali Carter en-route to the final, could do nothing to stop Selby in his tracks once he took a 7-6 lead on the night.
But it was indeed Murphy who started the better out of the two players as a scrappy frame saw him take a 1-0 lead.
Selby bounced back to level the scores after Murphy was unlucky for the cueball to go in-off when at the same time making a tough long pot on the red. The next frame saw Selby take the lead for the first time with a break of 66.
Murphy responded positively in frame four as a break of 83 drew him level at 2-2 going into the mid-session interval.
After the restart the topsy-turvy nature of the final continued as Murphy went back ahead with a break of 98 before he increased his lead to 4-2 winning a 52 minute long frame.
But Murphy failed to make the most of the first two-frame advantage in the match as Selby hit a break of 70 and then won a tactical eighth frame to level the scores at 4-4 going into the showcase evening session.
The returning world number one player looked set on winning the frame of the session after taking a 67-0 lead but Murphy overtook him to steal the frame and regain the lead.
The match remained on tender hooks and another tense tactical frame went this time in the favour of the Selby as he levelled it up once again to make it 5-5.
Selby then took the lead again winning the next frame after Murphy missed a crucial final pink. But breaks of 39 and 38 from the 2005 world champion once again put parity on the scoreboard as the match went to 6-6.
The next frame saw Selby regain the initiative as a break of 51 at the start of the frame was enough to see him through to a 7-6 lead. His lead increased to 8-6 thanks to a brilliant and workmanlike break of 98 – the joint highest of the match.
Murphy’s chances of coming back into contention had all but gone in frame 15 when aiming to clear up for the frame he missed a vital blue off its spot. Selby punished his opponent’s big mistake to take a significant 9-6 lead and be just one away from victory.
And the Leicester star sealed his first UK title with a break of 48 in frame 16 after Murphy missed a cut on a red to the green pocket.
It was by no means a classic final but Selby will not care the slightest as he finally lifted a title worthy of his place in snooker’s elite.