Mark Selby celebrated sweet success last night as he became the first player for a decade to win back-to-back major snooker titles with victory at the Masters.
Selby, the world number one and last month's UK Championship winner, clinched a battling 10-6 victory over Neil Robertson, the defending champion, in this year's best-of-19 frame final.
And not since Welshman Mark Williams swept the board in the 2002-2003 season by winning the 'big three' – the World Championship, UK and Masters – has any player achieved the impressive feat.
With victory Selby pocketed a handsome £175,000 first prize, while Robertson – who was aiming to become only the fourth player to have defended the title – won himself £85,000 as a worthy runner-up.
Selby's win was especially pleasing having twice looked like he was on his way out of this year's £500,000 tournament in the earlier rounds, before somehow keeping his title-hopes alive with fine comebacks.
The Leicester professional trailed Londoner Stuart Bingham 5-1 in the first round before battling back to clinch a battling 6-5 win. And the 2008 and 2010 Masters winner was on the verge of a semi-final exit to Glaswegian Graeme Dott when he trailed 4-1 and should have gone 5-1 behind, before again fighting back from the brink to win a final frame decider.
That semi final didn't finish until after midnight on Saturday evening with his opponent Robertson safely tucked up in bed having eased to victory earlier in the day against Shaun Murphy, a repeat of last year's final.
But Selby, 29, showed no signs of fatigue as many predicted and he eased into a 3-0 lead in the opening afternoon session between the pair. By the concluding evening session Selby had established a welcome
5-3 lead and had the momentum.
Breaks of 73, 102 and 84 helped Selby with his two-frame cushion, while Robertson, who beat Murphy 10-6 in last year's final, pocketed a top break of 78, 63 and 72 to stay within touching distance after the opening exchanges. However, it was Selby who made the early running in the final session as a break of 67 saw him move further ahead.
Robertson, 30, was then left with a mountain to climb as Selby won the next two frames to edge closer to a famous win at the green baize game's most prestigious invitational tournament.
The Melbourne player pulled back to within two frames of leveling after the break with a break of 83 and winning the 14th frame on the final pink.
But the end was just around the corner as Selby sealed victory by winning a scrappy frame to edge within one frame of the title and then made sure of his third Masters' crown by winning a tactical safety battle in the next.
It was another special moment in Selby's career, one which was nearly ended early by a prolonged neck problem.
And with no Ronnie O'Sullivan competing at events any more having taken a snooker sabbatical, Selby is adamant "the Rocket won't be missed".
"Some people out there are saying it isn't worth watching snooker with Ronnie not playing this season – but that is very harsh," said Selby.Reuse content