Y crowned world champion Mark Selby admitted he was dreading coming to the Crucible this year, such had been his poor form ahead of the tournament.
Selby completed an astonishing comeback victory against five-team champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, recovering from 10-5 down on Sunday to win 18-14 last night and subsequently returned to the top of the world rankings.
Yet the 30-year-old, who suffered quarter-final exits at the China Open and Welsh Open in the weeks preceding the world championship, revealed fears his stutter would continue in Sheffield.
“I was half dreading coming here because my form was not fantastic and this tournament is so important,” said Selby. “But I had a few days off, put in hard work, something clicked and I came here confident.
“It couldn’t be better, playing Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final, there’s no better way to win it.”
Having clawed his way back into the match on Sunday night, Selby won the first four frames yesterday to take the lead.
O’Sullivan levelled, then missed a straightforward pink to trail 12-11 in an epic 50-minute frame to end the penultimate session, cut short due to the length of play.
Only four times previously has a player gone on to lift the trophy having been behind going into the final session, yet O’Sullivan rattled in a nerve-settling century break to immediately level.
Selby proved resilient and gobbled up a succession of opportunities to win three frames in a row and led 15-12 at the interval. The final continued to ebb and flow, O’Sullivan clawing back two frames to keep the pressure on Selby, but the UK Championship and Masters runner-up held his nerve to triumph.
O’Sullivan had no complaints about the outcome.
“Mark had me in all sorts of trouble for two tough days,” he said. “He was too strong, too tough and a worthy champion.”