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Masters Semi-Final Betting: Odds are it'll be tight if Selby is involved

Masters RSS / / 16 January 2009 / Leave a Comment

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He's a master in the clutch frames, so if it goes to the wire you know who your money should be on. Eurosport snooker commentator David Hendon looks at Mark Selby, who faces John Higgins at Wembley on Saturday...

Mark Selby has won six matches at Wembley since making his debut in the Masters last year, five of them in deciding frame finishes. This may not be good for the heart but proves that the reigning champion is one of the best pressure players in snooker right now.

He should have put Ricky Walden away earlier than he did because the wildcard struggled in what was a poor match, but Selby's quarter-final against Mark Allen fizzed with high quality snooker and he once again proved his worth by coming from 4-2 down with two centuries to fight over the line.

Selby's breakthrough moment came at The Crucible two years ago when he reached the World Championship final. His run included a 13-12 midnight victory over Ali Carter in the quarter-finals and recovery from 16-14 down to edge Shaun Murphy 17-16 in the semis. Selby proved he was capable of doing what Steve Davis said was vital to being successful - playing like it means nothing when it means everything.

In his Crucible final against John Higgins he very nearly pulled off one of the sport's greatest ever comebacks, recovering from 12-4 down to trail only 14-13 before Higgins won the next four. Since then, Selby has won six of the nine matches he has played that have gone to deciding frame finishes in major tournaments. This is a record to be proud of. It is often deciding frame defeats that shake a player's confidence and lead to slumps in form.

The key to Selby's success, aside from his obvious talent, is very simple: he loves snooker. He loves practising, he loves tournaments and it appears that he loves pressure. He relishes the limelight and enjoys the attention. He doesn't mind if a match goes the distance because he loves being out there. At 25, his enthusiasm hasn't been eroded by knocks on the table or problems off it. He's a nice guy: friendly, funny and always willing to bow to media requests. Let's hope he stays this way. Snooker needs players the public can relate to and the 'Jester from Leicester' fits that bill.

But even at such a young age, too much snooker can take its toll. Selby went to the Crucible last year as second favourite for the world title but was beaten 10-8 by Mark King in the first round. He was snookered out, and the series of close matches he had been involved in must have contributed to that. His playing style was also a little cumbersome. He had an unorthodox swaying action before striking the cue ball, rather like a sniper taking aim. It meant he was becoming a little bogged down and it led to some suggesting he wasn't as good as was being made out. Last summer, he decided to quicken up. The swaying is now less pronounced and by playing at a faster tempo he is not expending so much mental energy.

Selby will need to be at the top of his game when he faces Higgins in the Wembley semi-finals. The twice Masters champion produced his best snooker since winning the world title in 2007 in beating Ding Junhui 6-4 in the quarters. It was a great match and Higgins ended it with a pot success rate of 96%.

Selby won't fear him. He has no reason to, considering he leads Higgins 5-3 in previous career meetings. Even so, the match will probably be very close and if Selby is to come through it's highly likely he will once again have to do so by proving himself to be a master of brinkmanship.

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