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World Snooker Championship: Is Mark Selby the most underappreciated player of all-time?

It's a topic that has been widely debated among snooker fans for years… ‘is Mark Selby a great player or just a boring one?’

It’s a debate that has split opinion amongst professional players, pundits on the television and general fans of the beautiful game sat inside the pub.

There’s no doubt that Selby boasts a hugely impressive professional record, with four World Championship titles amongst his hugely impressive 22 ranking event successes.

In fact, of any player that has graced the green baize, only seven have ever been able to better his haul.

Mark Selby Ranking Titles:

  • 2022/23: English Open, WST Classic
  • 2020/21: European Masters, Scottish Open, World Championship
  • 2019/20: English Open, Scottish Open
  • 2018/19: China Championship
  • 2017/18: International Championship, China Open
  • 2016/17: Paul Hunter Classic, International Championship, UK Championship, China Open, World Championship
  • 2015/16: World Championship
  • 2014/15: German Masters, China Open
  • 2013/14: World Championship
  • 2012/13: UK Championship
  • 2011/12: Shanghai Masters
  • 2007/08: Welsh Open

The Leicester ace, who is 6/1 to make it a Crucible quintet in May, is sheer granite, and boasts a mental side of the game that others can only dream about.

It’s a trait that has pulled him over the winning line in many seemingly impossible situations, but it’s also a trait that has attracted many a critic.

For every snooker fan who will argue that Selby is one of the sport’s all-time greats, there will be another who will argue that his style of play is far too unexciting, and actually bad for the game.

There’s no doubt that Selby lacks natural flair, even he, himself, will testify to that.

His slow and defensive approach has been labelled as tedious and boring by some, with criticism of his long spells at the snooker table causing matches to needlessly drag on for too long.

But those who defend Selby's style, like myself, will argue that it is a necessary part of his success.

His methodical nature around the table allows him to meticulously plan out each shot and break, resulting in the high level of consistency that has led to his array of titles.

You can also argue that Selby's strategic mind is what makes him such a formidable opponent, and more importantly, such a prolific winner.

Mark Selby

Few of his opponents have ever managed to outsmart Selby; even the great Ronnie O’Sullivan has shown to have buckled under the intense pressure that comes with tackling him.

But on the flip-side, there’s no denying that his style of play can prove to be, at times, a tough watch.

Even the most ardent snooker fan - a true purist - would more than likely admit to enjoying a more fast-paced and aggressive approach to the game.

But, O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Judd Trump aside, few players in the history of the sport have been able to combine such an approach with longevity at the very top.

Selby’s matches have been criticised for being uneventful and lacking the excitement and drama that fans crave.

Luca Brecel earned many admirers for the way he went about his business en-route to his maiden World Championship success 12 months ago.

But this season has proven that maintaining that style, and continuing to win matches, is, for the vast majority of players, nigh on impossible.

Will ‘The Belgian Bullet’ go on to become a multiple World Champion in the years to come? Possibly. Will he ever go on to match Selby’s haul of titles? Hugely unlikely.

Mark Selby Triple Crown Titles:

  • 4 x World Snooker Championship titles (2021, 2017, 2016, 2014)
  • 2 x UK Championship titles (2016, 2012)
  • 3 x Masters titles (2013, 2010, 2008)

As I touched upon earlier, Selby, himself, has even acknowledged the many criticisms that have come, and continue to come, his way.

But is a player's style really what defines their greatness? It certainly shouldn’t do.

While ‘the Jester from Leicester’ may not have the flashy and entertaining style of players like Brecel, O'Sullivan or Trump, nobody can deny that he is one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Like it or not, Selby is a true master of his craft.

Hundreds, if not thousands, have attempted to follow his suit, and 99.9 percent of those have failed to get anywhere near his level.

The 40-year-old has never had the same level of recognition or fanfare as other top players like O'Sullivan, Hendry or John Higgins, and more than likely, never will.

But nobody can argue that Selby isn’t deserving of a spot amongst the all-time greats of the game - irrespective of whether you are a fan of his game or not.

Whether one considers Mark Selby to be a great or boring player is truly a matter of personal opinion.

While some may argue that his style of play is not as exciting as others, there is no denying that his accomplishments - including nine Triple Crown titles - make him one of the finest players to have ever picked up a snooker cue.

And that alone is a testament to his greatness.
 

2024 World Snooker Championship

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