Mark Selby produced a stunning comeback at Wembley Arena last night to regain the PokerStars.com Masters title he lost to Ronnie O'Sullivan a year ago. In a thrilling final of high quality, the world No 1 established a lead in the afternoon session that he did not relinquish until Selby won the penultimate frame to take the game into a decider.
Selby, winner of the title in 2008, has a reputation for winning deciding frames and enhanced his record by edging ahead of the Rocket to claim the £150,000 prize money with a 10-9 win.
"That's the best final I've ever been," the 26-year-old told BBC Sport. "The atmosphere is great when Ronnie O'Sullivan plays. I just dug in and thought I would just scrap it out. "
This was the first major tournament since Barry Hearn's appointment as chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, a move that has been tipped to reinvigorate the sport after a slump that has seen players disillusioned. This thrilling final will help.
As the favourite, O'Sullivan eased himself into the contest after losing a scrappy opening frame. But nothing is simple with O'Sullivan. Leading up to the final he beat Neil Robertson, Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams but admitted he was playing poorly enough to lose all of them.
The 34-year-old was disgusted with himself for a poor positional shot in the second frame but an unfortunate in-off from Selby led to a break of 56 for O'Sullivan to level the scores.
O'Sullivan then started moving through the gears, taking a lead with a break of 86, which started with an attacking blue to open up the reds early on in the frame. Then came his first century of the final, including taking his last red left-handed – and the mid-session interval could not come quickly enough for Selby. However, after the returning from the dressing room O'Sullivan notched up a break of 101 to establish a three-frame lead.
It looked like O'Sullivan was in a hurry to wrap up victory but Selby doggedly replied with breaks of 86 and 112 to get within a frame of the defending champion. Last year's final was level after the first session but O'Sullivan edged the eighth frame to establish his two-frame lead, at 5-3.
In the evening session Selby took the ninth to get within a frame of his opponent. O'Sullivan knocked in 92 in reply but Selby's response was a break of 136, a run that included a pressure shot on a pink when he was tight to the middle-pocket knuckle. Selby showed fine temperament and fought back again with a 78 – but O'Sullivan continued to hold him at bay.
Breaks of 89 and 91 got O'Sullivan within sight of back-to-back titles – but Selby dug deep again with consecutive frames, including another century, to set up a thrilling finale at 9-8.
Then Selby took the final two frames, making it four in a row, to take the title.
Afterwards, O'Sullivan said: "He played well, and deserved to win. I never got a look in the last four frames."Reuse content