UK Snooker Championship 2017: Mark Selby thrilled to prove he can mix style with substance
|2017 UK Championship|
|Date: 28 Nov-10 Dec Venue: York Barbican|
|Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 2 December.|
Reigning champion Mark Selby says the stylish 10-7 win over Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 2016 UK Championship was one of the most satisfying of his career and proved he can mix flair with tenacity.
The world number one and world champion scored three centuries and six fifties in the final to earn a second UK title.
"A lot of people see me scrapping so it was great to show I was competing with the best," Selby, 34, told BBC Sport.
Selby begins his UK defence against Egypt's Basem Eltahhan on Wednesday.
The Leicester-based player has had a magnificent 12 months, which have seen him claim the world title for a third time.
"I still have to pinch myself a little bit," Selby said.
"When I won the Worlds for the first time it was an aim which I had always strived for. If I didn't win it again I would have retired happy, but to win it three times is something quite remarkable really."
Selby has been world number one since February 2015 and such is the prize money gap to closest rival Judd Trump that he is likely to stay there for a long time. Selby tops the world rankings on almost £1.5m, just under £800,000 ahead of fellow Englishman Trump.
"It means everything," Selby said. "Being world number one for two years makes me want to work harder to see how long I can stay there.
"I have won the Worlds three times and the Masters three times and the UK is only two at the moment."
'Torturer' turns the tables against Ronnie
Selby's victory at the Crucible was the fifth of five ranking titles he won in an astonishingly consistent 2016-17 season.
The third world title in snooker's showpiece event in Sheffield was the obvious standout moment but beating five-time world champion O'Sullivan in one of the best UK Championships finals in history brought immense pride.
Selby is renowned for his ability to battle and grind out out victories and has earned a reputation as one of the best match players of all time.
But he was in masterful form as he built a 7-2 lead and, despite seeing that advantage whittled back to 8-7, he finished off in style with two centuries.
"It's one of the best finals I have played in," Selby said. "To play Ronnie in any final is a great feeling. To play him in one of the 'Big Three' - which I have managed to do now in all three - is fantastic.
"I felt relaxed playing him because I knew I was the underdog. It's irrelevant what type of season he has had. You are always going to be the underdog playing Ronnie because you don't know which Ronnie will turn up.
"If he does turn up then sometimes he is unbeatable. We both played to the top of our game.
"I remember sitting there going from 7-2 to 8-7, but I was still quite relaxed. It was not as if I had chance after chance. He won a lot of the frames in one visit off a long red and I didn't really make too many mistakes so I wasn't being too harsh on myself.
"I thought if he went on to win I would just hold my hands up and say he was too good on the day. But when I got my chances I capitalised and finished off with two centuries."
Selby in stats
- Selby is only the sixth player to win all of snooker's 'Triple Crown' events - the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship - at least twice.
- He joins an illustrious list of players - O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, John Higgins and John Parrott - to hold both the World and UK titles in the same year.
- Selby now has 13 ranking titles to his name, putting him joint sixth on the all-time list with Ding Junhui. Stephen Hendry (36) leads the way, ahead of Ronnie O'Sullivan (30), John Higgins (29), Steve Davis (28) and Mark Williams (19).
- He won a record-equalling five ranking titles in the 2016-17 season, collecting almost £1m in prize money.
- Selby is only the fourth player to win back-to-back world titles at the Crucible.
Selby's rivals for the title
Ronnie O'Sullivan, 41, starts his bid to equal Steve Davis' record of six UK titles against Wales' Jackson Page on Thursday, having recently won the English Open and the Shanghai Masters.
Three-time UK champion John Higgins faces fellow Scot Chris Totten on the opening day. The 42-year-old won his 29th ranking title in September - one more than Davis - with victory in the Indian Open final.
Another veteran, two-time world champion Mark Williams, 42, goes into the championship in good form, having ended his six-year wait for a ranking title by winning the Northern Ireland Open on Sunday.
World number two Judd Trump, who retained the European Masters in October, faces Matthew Bolton while number three Ding Junhui, winner of the World Open in September, takes on Ireland's Leo Fernandez.
Other names to watch are 17-year-old Yan Bingtao from China, who came close to becoming the youngest-ever winner of a ranking event only to lose a thriller to Williams in Belfast, and Belgium's Luca Brecel, 22, who claimed his first ranking title in August.