Coming into the blue ribbon event, the ‘Jester’ from Leicester, had pulled out of the China Open for personal reasons, and had a mediocre season by his account. This showed in first and second round respectively in defeating Robert Milkins followed by a huge scare again qualifier Sam Baird before coming through it.
A quarter-final match-up against Shanghai Masters champion, Kyren Wilson, should’ve been more of a test for the 2008 Welsh Open winner, but a fast 4 frame burst at the beginning of the match, see him over the line.
Selby, made the final, after an epic battle with Hong Kong’s Marco Fu in the semi-final. Fu, clawed his way back into the match, after the Englishman had started of the better of the two players. Some fantastic safety play ensued in what was a drawn out match where neither player, hit top form, before Selby got over the line to make his third final in nine years.
Standing in his way, was China’s prodigy hotshot – the first Asian player to partake in the final and the last overseas player to contest it since Australian – Neil Robertson – in 2010. Ding, who a few seasons back won 5 world ranking tournaments in one season, had to come through 3 qualifying matches this year, as poor performances over the last 16 months, see him drop out of the top 16.
His route to the final, like Selby’s, was not contested against all the major opposition, most fans thought would be. Holder, Stuart Bingham, lost in the first round, Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan both lost in the 2nd round to Michael Holt and Barry Hawkins respectively.
Ding, had a tense victory over 2011 finalist, Judd Trump, in the second round, before cruising past 2000 and 2003 world champion, Mark Williams, in the quarters. An unexpected Alan McManus was Ding’s semi-final opponent. The Glaswegian came through victorious against friend and former champion, John Higgins, to give him his first semi-final match in Yorkshire, since 1994. Unfortunately, the run ended there, as Ding beat a valiant McManus to book his first world final spot.
The two finalists had come together just once in Sheffield, where Ding won at the quarter-final stage in 2011. Selby, going for a second world title, after winning his first in 2014, by beating Ronnie O’Sullivan, came out the blocks the quickest. The first session went to Selby. A 121 break by Selby, set the pattern as he led 6-0. But then Ding finally woke up and managed to work his way into the final. At one point on the first day, the former UK Champion got to within one frame of Selby. But by the end of the first day’s place, Selby led by 3 frames at 10-7.
Ding started the final day making inroads, but as he drew close, Selby, the master of brinkmanship and tenacity, pulled away from him. Selby’s tactic of long drawn out frames, didn’t happen as much in this final, as his semi final against Fu, but at times, both players lost any rhythm to their game, as the balls became awkward. In most cases, when this happens, Selby comes into his own as a world class matchplayer of the game.
With the winning line in sight for Selby, Ding had a brief run of frames, to startle the former German Masters champion. But the Midlands man fended off any last minute comeback to win his 2nd world title – 18-14, just as his beloved football team, Leicester City, made history by winning their first ever Premiership league title.
“In the first to 18, a 6-0 lead is not a huge one, especially against someone like Ding. He played fantastically earlier today and I had to just hang on to him,” Said Selby. “It was very special to win it two years ago, but I felt under a lot more pressure now than I did two years ago. “
Selby admitted he didn’t play well during the course of the tournament and, as in past final successes when things aren’t running smoothly he brings his other side out. “I’m just over the moon. I saved my best performance for the final and I only had two good sessions in the tournament. Luckily my ‘B’ game is pretty good.”
With the news that by winning the title, Selby had gone back to no.1 in the world, he praised the other no.1 success of the night. “To be Premier League champions is a fantastic achievement and I want to say well done to Claudio Ranieri and the boys.”
For Ding, bidding to become the first qualifier to win the world title, since Shaun Murphy in 2005, he made many records en route to the final. Having hit 15 centuries, one more would’ve equalled Stephen Hendry’s record at The Crucible.
And a television audience in China also enjoyed his run over the 2 weeks in the UK. 210 million watched overall, and when Ding made the final, over 42 million watched the afternoon sessions take place. Which was prime time late night evening viewing in Asia.
Earlier in the month, Reanne Evans regained the women’s world championship at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds. Evans, who a few seasons ago, was on the pro circuit and nearly qualified for the world championships after losing out closely to Ken Doherty, had won the world’s between 2005 and 2014. Her run was stopped by 2015 winner Ng On Yee, but this year she got her revenge, to win it for the eleventh time by six-four.
The 30 year old said afterwards: “I am over the moon. I am glad to win the title back and now the trophy is back in England where it belongs. There was more pressure on On Yee than me this year. I know how difficult it is being defending champion, but I just wanted to play alright.”
The holder of the tournament gains entry to the men’s world championship qualifiers at Pond Forge, Sheffield.
More good news for the sport followed, with the announcement that the BBC – host broadcasters of the event, had signed a new 2 year deal to carry on showing the ‘triple crown’ tournaments; Masters, UK Championship and World Championship on the BBC until the end of 2018-2019 season, as well as The Crucible Theatre signing a deal to keep it in Yorkshire until 2027.