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A closer look at Mark Selby's rise to the summit

A closer look at Mark Selby's rise to the summit
© AFP
Mark Selby won his fourth world title with victory over Shaun Murphy at the Crucible.

Four years ago this month Mark Selby stood astride the snooker world, having picked up his third world title, pocketed a record £930,000 in a single season and courted the plaudits of some of his sport's all-time greats.

Vanquished finalist John Higgins, whom Selby had sunk from a seemingly hopeless 10-4 deficit, predicted his conqueror would go on to challenge Stephen Hendry's record of seven Crucible titles, while Hendry himself said Selby would dominate the game "for a very long time."

Instead, Selby's career unravelled so spectacularly that the question quickly became not whether he would manage to add multiple more crowns to his world title haul, but whether he would ever again grace the biggest stage in his sport.

Snooker – Dafabet World Snooker Championships – Day Seventeen – The Crucible
Mark Selby won his first world snooker title in 2014 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive)

Alarm bells began ringing long before Selby crashed out of the 2018 tournament in a first round defeat to Joe Perry. He would fail to win another British-based ranking title in two-and-a-half years and long-standing off-field issues reared their head to hamper his recovery process.

Selby had never made any secret of his difficult start in life, with his mother leaving their family home when he was nine years old, then losing his father David to cancer in 1999.

But it was only in a series of interviews early in 2021 that he revealed the extent of his heartbreak, and how the apparent unravelling of his home life had led him to suffer suicidal thoughts.

Betfred Snooker World Championship 2016 – Day Seventeen – Crucible Theatre
Mark Selby won his second world title against Ding Junhui in 2016 (Mike Egerton/PA)

All of which serves to make Selby's gritty clamber from an inauspicious start in the game – he joined the professional tour at the age of 16, just two months after his father's death and having left school without any qualifications – to a position as one of the sport's all-time greats all the more remarkable.

He thumped Higgins in the first round of the 2006 World Championship, going on to crack the top 16 for the first time at the end of the subsequent season, and reached the semi-finals of the 2007 UK Championship.

Success would soon start piling up for Selby, who won the Masters in 2008, the UK crown in 2012 and his first world title two years later, by seeing off Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Betfred Snooker World Championships 2017 – Day Seventeen – Crucible Theatre
Mark Selby's career unravelled after his 2017 win over John Higgins (Steven Paston/PA)

Selby's attritional approach to the game has not always found favour, with O'Sullivan dubbing him the 'Torturer', and Eurosport commentator Neal Foulds criticising him for taking more than six minutes to play a shot against Higgins in the Northern Ireland Open in 2019.

But as inevitable as it was that Selby would chisel his way to multiple world crowns – he won his second over Ding Junhui in 2016 before successfully defending it against Higgins – so the extent of his fall from grace was remarkable, as he slumped to sixth in the rankings and lost any semblance of his trademark, world-beating consistency.

But for a series of title wins in China during the period, the damage could have been so much worse, but Selby rallied and began to show glimmers of his own self when reached the semi-finals of last year's World Championship, where he suffered a dramatic and acrimonious exit to O'Sullivan.

2018 Betfred Snooker World Championships – Day One – The Crucible
Mark Selby's 2018 loss to Joe Perry marked a career low point (Richard Sellers/PA)

Afterwards, O'Sullivan dubbed Selby a "bad loser", which only served to exacerbate the perception of the Leicester player as a slogger in the guise of golden-age grinders like Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths, and an antidote to the flashy new generation typified by the emergent Judd Trump.

It is a reputation that will undoubtedly stick – Selby was warned by referee Ben Williams for slow play during his semi-final win over an exasperated Stuart Bingham and there were evident boos mixed with the cheers when he strode out for the final session of his match with Shaun Murphy.

Selby shrugged off the all finger-pointing, maintaining none of it bothered him one bit. With the recent assistance of acclaimed snooker coach Chris Henry, he has reached the kind of happy place he feared he would never see in the dark days of that post-2017 slump in form.

Standing next to wife Vikki, cradling his young daughter Sophia in his arms and with a fourth World Championship trophy perched on the table next to him, Selby simply vowed to shut out the critics and reclaim his position as the dominant force in his sport.

Having already won much bigger battles, he appears better-equipped than ever to do just that.

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Mark Selby poses with the trophy after beating Ding Junhui in the final of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible on May 2, 2016
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina22131247
United StatesUnited States19201352
JapanJapan175830
AustraliaAustralia1331430
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151238
Great BritainGreat Britain9101231
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events


GOLF
· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

CYCLING - BMX
· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

SWIMMING
· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

TENNIS
· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

SAILING
· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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