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Monday, 10 December 2012

UK Championship final + Reflections on the week

The 2012 williamhill.com UK Champion is Mark Selby after he defeated Shaun Murphy 10-6 last night to add the UK title to his two Masters titles and  leave himself two thirds of the way to completing the holy trinity of major snooker titles.The last of these is of course the World Championship,but the fact he could win this title without ever playing at his best will give him confidence that if his game is up to speed come April he can claim that prize as well.

That is talk for another day though as we reflect today on what we saw yesterday as well as on the week as a whole.

In many ways it was fitting that these two players came to meet in the final.Having come through the ranks at roughly the same time they have known each other and been friends for many years,also in a time where many of their fellow professionals grumbled about the amount of tournaments & travelling the new era has brought, these two have fully embraced it adopting a "have cue will travel" attitude.Putting it simply they love the sport and fully appreciate the life it has given them.

It was also a fitting final as both men had a various stage during the week looked as if they were on the way out of the tournament only to pull the matches out of the fire.This one had the potential to be a classic but in truth it turned into a slog as maybe those earlier fights took there toll on both.

On to the match itself I suspect Murphy will look back at the afternoon session where he appeared to be in the ascendancy at 4-2 only for Selby to win the last two and make it 4-4 as the point he lost the match.

The evening session was a very nervy affair with both players missing unexpected pots but they still couldn't be separated at the mid session interval,the score now 6-6.It was at this stage though that Selby seemed to find that little bit extra to make his final push for the line.He opened a two frame lead to go 8-6 and had a healthy lead in the next when Murphy came to the table with three reds remaining.Murphy to his credit has adopted an attacking philosophy all week and a series of super pots put him within touching distance of closing to 8-7.However in a miss reminiscent of the famous Willie Thorne one all those years ago he failed to pot a straight forward blue to the middle and Selby cleared up to take the frame. The end was now not far away and he captured the next to seal a 10-6 win.

The post match interviews again showed what fine ambassadors for the game these two men are and we should be rightly proud in a world where it is anything but the norm we have a sport that on the whole is played by gentlemen.

For Murphy he seemed genuinely happy to be competing in another major final even if it did end in failure.He can take a lot of confidence from the way he played especially in the semi final and its hard to believe a man who strikes the ball as well as he does wont be in the winners circle soon again.

Selby on the other hand can reflect not just on this triumph but on 2012 as a whole with some satisfaction. In a year where at one stage his career could possibly have been threatened with a serious neck injury he has overcome that to not just win this title but to also reclaim the World no.1 ranking.He will no doubt take great confidence from this and will have learnt a lot from his previous time at the top of the ranking when it seemed  to weigh heavy on him.You get the feeling he will be more prepared for it now.

So the curtain came down on the 2012 UK Championship with A smiling Mark Selby accompanied by his wife Vicky holding the trophy aloft but what can we take from the last nine days of snooker action?

The fear of many over the last month when it became clear that World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan would not be competing was that without him it would be a case of "Hamlet without the Prince"  and despite what some might protest he was missed. That is not to say that snooker can't continue without him,of course it can but I don't think anyone would argue that things are certainly more interesting with him around.

 That said he wasn't so lets look at what we had. The overall standard it has to be said was perhaps not as high as we would like.We keep been told that the standard keeps rising but I think we are in danger of mixing up a rise in standard with a leveling of of things. I don't see anyone at the moment capable of producing the quality that a Davis,Hendry,Higgins or O'Sullivan did in the past.

The beautiful thing about snooker though is that you don't need flawless play for it to be enjoyable,indeed it is often at its most dramatic when players are missing.That was the case last week when in the space of 4 days we were treated to some the most dramatic of games we will ever see.I still don't know how Higgins missed that pink and thats the point,it is things like that that keep us watching.

There were  of course other things of note this week.Judd Trump's attempt to defend his title fell at the first hurdle when he let a 5-2 lead slip against Mark Joyce.If Trump is to become a great in the sport he will have to become more ruthless in finishing these type of matches off..

Mark Davis finally got his reward for 21 years of toiling away on the circuit by reaching the semi final and thus securing a place in the top 16 for the first time in his career.He will now look forward to playing at The Masters for the first time come January.

Apart from Selby though no doubt the star of the week for many will be 17 year old Luca Brecel who lit up this tournament getting within a couple of missed pinks of eliminating Shaun Murphy in the quarter finals. For someone experiencing something completely new he seemed to revel in the atmosphere and it was great to see him really enjoy what he was doing.If he can replicate this form in the minefield that is the qualifiers it surely wont be long before he's knocking on the door of his first professional title.

So a week of wall to wall snooker draws to and end. As I said earlier although the standard at times wasn't what we'd expect the dramatic conclusions to so many matches served to show us one again why we love this game and we're not finish for the 2012 yet with action this weekend from the PTC in Scotland.I can't wait.
@thegreenbaize




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