When I told them I could cover the final of the World Snooker Championships from Sheffield for your Daily Sport I fully expected a Ronnie O’Sullivan v Neil Robertson final, and the chance to collect on my each way bet at 10/1 – sadly, as we all know now, that was not to be. Mark Selby was the last on the conveyor belt of sacrificial lambs laid at The Rocket’s altar as far as the majority of the media were concerned. To be fair, how Mark walked out of the first day only ten seven down is beyond my explanations (grit, battling qualities and perhaps the run of the balls), but whether he could maintain the concentration necessary to do the same again for a second day was the big question? In bucket loads was the obvious answer as the “Jester from Leicester” (don’t you just hate nicknames?) clawed it back and even “dared” to take the lead at 11-10. Fact is Ronnie looked to me as if he had booked a restaurant table later or something, as he seemed rushed or even nonchalant at times with the flair still there – but not the end product at times. Frame 22 took on real significance for both players as they closed in toward the 18th frame they needed to win and that was pretty evident in the early safety exchanges before more misses than I have ever seen at the highest level in one frame as nerves began to take their toll, but seemingly on both players. Stopping the rot at 11-11 all eyes were on the next few frames as we prepared for a late night by the look of it if this went all the way to the wire.
Watched by a “celebrity” audience that included Stephen Fry, World 8-Ball Pool Champion Gareth Potts, the drummer from Iron Maiden, and one of One Direction (not a clue which one though), they stood toe-to-toe for the next few frames but to be fair, it wasn’t the best snooker I have ever seen by a long long way. Selby’s tactics of slowing things down certainly seemed to leave him in the ascendancy as he looked the more confident of the two as it came down to the nitty gritty, and so it proved with Mark’s highest break of the final in frame 30 (a magnificent under pressure 127) showing everyone who was now in charge. An 87 in the next got him on to the hill before finally recording an 18-14 victory that may not have been the prettiest to watch, but was match play snooker (not necessarily break building) at its very best. Ronnie was humble in defeat taking nothing away from the 30 year old newly crowned Champion and will surely be back next year – but will he find a way to deal with the mind games his opponent has now shown can rattle the Rocket – we will all have to wait until next year to find out.