There was no wild celebration, no chest blows. Mark Selby stepped out of his concentration silo and allowed himself clenched fists while the winning ball fell, the mission precisely completed. It was the night he became the four-time world champion in Crucible, when he joined Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins in the elite class. But over the course of four convincing sessions, it was also a finalist in which the unshakable Selby showed why it’s impossible to defeat him when it really matters.
Selby has now won 17 of 18 major finalists since becoming world champion for the first time in 2014, a clinical series that Shawn Murphy could not stop with a defeat 18–15. It won’t go down like a heavy-scoring classic, with only five pods and countless 50 breaks breakdowns. But it was an unforgettable meeting of snooker styles, and even ideologies, between Selby’s pragmatism and Murphy’s dash, between a player who pushed back the crowd and another inviting them to enter, putting himself in the noise. The moment that summed up the split at 12-9 came, when Murphy came to the table and turned down a simple safety, and instead threw himself in the long, ambitious red that barely bothered the pocket. Selby cleared softly to go 9-13.
You can’t blame Murphy for using the entertaining snooker game that brought him to the final, for his reliance on the offensive instincts that propelled him to fame in 2005 when the pink-cheeked newcomer won the world title, shooting everything that could be geometrically disconnected. 22-year-old Murphy was irresistible that year, and it seemed impossible to imagine he could go so long without another world crown, but provocative bouts, like Judd Trump’s attack two years ago, tend to be the exception, not the rule. . Minimizing a competitor’s chances is usually more than just fabricating your own.
Selby wrapped up the world title on Monday, but actually won Sunday night in a spell that explained exactly why playing with him was a disciplinary experience. Selby won six of the last seven frames of the night; At one point, Murphy went an entire hour without putting on a ball. Selby gradually increased the pressure, both on the scoreboard and on the floor of the crucible, as the heat rose under the winding lights, like a form of very gentle psychological torture in which he wears the foundations a tie.
This would satisfy his best, scoring goals while gently removing his opponent’s sense of rhythm or timing until they finally got back to the table drunk. His decision making was almost flawless. It would be wrong to say he was defensive but Selby saved his best shots when the stakes were low. Like the moment he showed up on a Monday afternoon, when he was 11-8 late but 51 points late in the frame, he put a terrible red along the table before shooting meticulously in the black zone (very good moment, the BBC quickly did Putting it in place. Shortlist for filming the tournament) It looked like a marvel of intent, an announcement that he had taken full responsibility for the table, and although he couldn’t get the frame back, he posted successive breaks of 107, 54, and 50 to demand the next two and tighten his grip.
Murphy was always bursting with life and came in dramatic bursts, such as his brilliant break when he fell 13-9 which ended his left hand, as he rolled the ball off the pillows at impossible angles to delight the crowd in full force. But his moments of jubilation were met with impenetrable calm: Selby took the next frame to bear the 11-14 advantage in the last session.
When they came back he moved on to 15-11 before Murphy brilliantly shed 15-12. They swapped the next two frames before Selby reached a beautifully made fracture of 120, the highest in the Final, to take him inside a cup. Murphy responded with centuries in streak on his own to reduce the deficit to 17-15, but only delayed his defeat as Selby won with a tactical final frame, the kind he enjoys. Murphy’s last shot was a gritty but extremely dangerous red down the rail that was left seated at jaws.
For Murphy, losing the third final since his only world title 16 years ago will be a source of encouragement, a sign that he is back near his best after a few years of rest. He is 38 years old and more opportunities will come, but based on this evidence, he will need to be near-perfect to break the symmetry of granite in the first degree of the game. For Selby, a relentless show added his name to the elite squad of Crucible champions four times in yet another night of quiet contentment, wrapping up another matchless final, and yet another painter’s victory over the potters.