AFTER threatening a prestigious first world title for many years, Mark Selby is now just one win away from reaching the ultimate heights any professional snooker player dreams of.
Winner of three ranking events and a three times winner of the Masters, Selby now can land snooker’s greatest prize should he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan over the next two days.
But that might be the problem standing in his way – O’Sullivan.
Despite a scare against Joe Perry in the second round, the defending champion has eased his way into the final brushing aside Shaun Murphy (quarter-final) and Barry Hawkins (semi-final) both with a session to spare.
The five-times world champion is on the brink of making it world title number six and going just one behind Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles in snooker’s modern era. He will also join Hendry and Steve Davis to have won three consecutive World Championships from the same period should victory come his way.
O’Sullivan, a strong favourite for the title before the World Championship got underway 15 days ago, beat Selby convincingly to win the Masters in January, will the same happen just a few months later?
He will no doubt go into his sixth world final with a sense of freshness after enjoying a day’s rest following his three-session semi-final win over Hawkins. Whether that will play a huge part in the bearing of this final only time will tell.
But any signs of tiredness from Selby’s part have not been evident so far as an impressive semi-final win over Neil Robertson showed in what was a humdinger of a match. Selby is yet to win a major title this season but it looks as if he is saving his best form for the most perfect time.
His semi-final win was so impressive even Robertson said after the game it was his best he had seen Selby play. “He played probably the best I’ve ever seen him play,” he said.
“With that many sessions, for him not have a period where he’s missing easy balls is every credit to him. If he can play the same way he did against me, then he’s got every chance of competing. So much depends on how much rest Mark can get, and how much he has left in his tank.”
Unlike the Masters final at the start of the year, Selby will need to make a good start. Once a player like O’Sullivan has his tale up then his lead in the match rockets up within a blink of eye – just ask Murphy, Hawkins and other who have faced his brilliance on snooker’s biggest stage. History tells us O’Sullivan does not lose world finals – he’s won all five he has competed in.
If Selby could win at least three of the first eight frames then he will feel very much in a battle. But should O’Sullivan take a 6-2 or 7-1 lead then the evening session could prove to be a long one for the Leicester man.
Because of O’Sullivan’s brilliance on the baize in the past two years, we have not had the pleasure of seeing a close World final. You probably have to go back to 2011 for the last competitive final when John Higgins came back from behind to beat Judd Trump.
If Selby makes a strong start in just a couple of hours time then we could be in for a classic. Let’s hope it proves a memorable one.