Defending Champion Mark Selby (Eng) narrowly escaped a shock defeat against World Championship debutant Kurt Maflin (Nor).
First session – A convincing performance in the first session saw the World Number 1 rack up a 6-3 lead over World Number 38 Maflin.
- Frame by frame: 128-0 (84), 0-102 (96), 108-16 (108), 0-97 (60), 84-7 (53), 77-44 (69), 69-62 (Selby 56)*, 7-113 (88), 71-8.
Second session – Selby clinched the opening break of the second session to extend his lead to 4 frames, just 3 away from victory. Maflin won the second to get the deficit back to 3 before Selby bounced back with his second century, and highest break of the match to get it to 8-4.
With nothing to lose, the Norwegian piled the pressure on the Jester from Leicester and put on a gutsy performance to win the next 5 consecutive frames, and most importantly, to take the lead. At 8-9 everything looked to be going against Selby and with Maflin getting the run of the ball, it looked as though a major upset was on the cards.
With Selby’s scoring having ground to a halt, he knuckled down to claim the must-win 18th frame to level the match at 9-9. With both players understandably nervous, it was Selby that built on his momentum to go 51 points in the lead with just 43 remaining. Now at the ‘snookers required’ stage, Maflin wasn’t going to give up easily and savoured the opportunity to get back to the table. With a red over the top right corner pocket, Maflin needed to get the cue ball tight in behind the brown to have any hope of staying in the match. A poor safety left just enough of the red on show, allowing Selby to swerve round the brown, sink the red, and claim the victory. What a match!
- Frame by frame: 67-0, 1-67, 124-0 (124), 0-86 (62), 38-103, 33-78 (51), 10-68, 46-79, 64-33, 60-14
Speaking of his opponent after the match, Selby said:
“For his first time, he played great. Up until 8-5, I felt like I was in control, but then he started getting more and aggressive and played fantastic. At any other venue I think I would have been out, but because it is the Crucible, he probably felt the nerves a bit towards the end.”
Much of the talk ahead of the World Championship centred on the ‘Crucible Curse’, with no first-time winner having successfully defended the title.
“When he was in at 9-8, I was sort of preparing my speech thinking the curse has happened again. It’s a tough tournament and the hardest tournament in the world to win. To win it once is fantastic, but hopefully I can defend it.”
Selby will go on to face either Stephen Maguire (World Number 15) or World Championship debutant Anthony McGill (World Number 32) in the 2nd round.
Let’s just hope the dreaded ‘Crucible Curse’ doesn’t plague his performance anymore!
The Crucible can make even the greatest of players crumble, who do YOU think will rise to the top?
My Money’s on Ronnie!