The final of the snooker UK Championship is a major event in its own right, but even more so when it produces stunning play, twists and turns and a thrilling finish from two of the game’s titans. This year’s final in York ended with Mark Selby beating Ronnie O’Sullivan by 10-7, but the bald result doesn’t tell the whole story.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the UK Championship five times and has never lost before in the final. 2016 hasn’t been his best year but, as Selby said, “To play Ronnie in any game is always a great atmosphere and gives you a buzz.”
O’Sullivan looked as if he was going to dominate the game at the start, winning the first frame by 138-0 with a break of 124. Then things started to go wrong for him. A series of uncharacteristic errors meant he won only one of the next eight frames, while Mark Selby played consistently well in his trademark resolute style.
Although O’Sullivan played far better in the second session, including two century breaks, and reduced the deficit to 8-7 at one stage, Selby reasserted himself, finishing with century breaks in the last two frames to clinch the title.
The UK Champion
The title, which netted him a prize of £170,000, crowned a fantastic year for Mark Selby. Just the sixth player to be World and UK champion in the same calendar year, the select band he joins includes O’Sullivan himself along with Steve Davis, John Parrott, Stephen Hendry and John Higgins. Selby has also now twice won the “triple crown” of World, UK and Masters titles.
O’Sullivan, on the other hand, missed the chance not only to equal Davis’s record of six UK wins, but also to go second, behind Hendry, in the all-time ranking winners, moving ahead of Davis and Higgins. He’s had a disappointing year by his heady standards, having lost to Judd Trump in the European Masters final and to John Higgins in the final of the Champion of Champions.
Raising the Bar
Other top players were quick to heap praise on both men, but especially Selby, hailed by Steve Davis as “one of the greats”. John Parrott described the match as “one of the finest games of snooker I’ve ever seen”, while Shaun Murphy tweeted that “Anyone watching the snooker has witnessed the bar being raised.”
We’re privileged to have two such giants playing, and we can look forward to more thrilling tussles between them.