Mark Selby says he’ll need to be “on top of his game” if he’s to get the better of Shaun Murphy at the Crucible, as the two former champions get set to lock horns in the Betfred World Championship final
Three-time winner Selby is the 1/2 favourite with Betfred to claim his first title since 2017 at the expense of the 2005 champion and 13/8 chance Murphy ahead of the first session of the final getting under way at 13:00 on Sunday.
Both men had to dig deep to win their respective semi-finals, coming from behind to advance to the showpiece match at the expense of Kyren Wilson and Stuart Bingham respectively.
Wilson had been odds-on to be contesting the final having lead Murphy 10-6 overnight, only for the Magician to reach into his bag of tricks to fightback, levelling the match at 12-12 in the morning session before winning all five frames of the final session to clinch an unlikely 17-12 success.
Murphy has rediscovered his best form at just the right time having endured a poor season before arriving in Sheffield but has now accounted for Judd Trump and last year’s Betfred World Championship runner-up Wilson to set up a meeting with old rival Selby.
This will be the 41st time the pair have met in a professional rankings event, with Selby just leading the head-to-head between the duo with 21 wins, while he won 17-16 the last time the duo faced off at the Crucible.
The Jester from Leicester (4/6 highest break) came through a gruelling semi-final with Bingham which lasted three hours and 40 minutes longer than Murphy’s last-four contest.
Selby trailed 13-11 heading into the final session before breaks of 125 and 132 helped him open up a 16-14 lead, only for Bingham to fire back with an 85 before the match was paused for overrunning.
The 2015 world champion would eventually lose his cool with Selby’s slow play, later describing it as close to “gamesmanship” as Selby clinched the single frame he needed to reach the final 17-15.
Having edged out Bingham, Selby will hope to rediscover the form which saw him ease past the likes of Kurt Maflin (10-1), Mark Allen (13-7) and Mark Williams (13-3) in previous rounds at the Crucible, as he prepares to face off against Murphy for the first time since their epic 2007 semi-final at the Sheffield venue.
“All the hours I put in on the practice table, all the sacrifices being away from home and the family – getting to a world final makes it all worthwhile,” Selby told BBC Sport.
“I need to be on top of my game because Shaun is playing as well as he has for a long time. We grew up together, there is only one year between us. We used to play together at Willie Thorne’s club when I was 14 and he was 15. We are still battling now.”