In an English Open final which closely resembled that of 2017 involving O’Sullivan and Wilson, this year’s final experienced a similar fashion with a contest between 3-time World Champion Mark Selby, and WSC semi-finalist David Gilbert. Given these two consistently practice with each other, what happened in Sunday’s final?
Selby took Frames 1-4 with breaks of 88, 68, 79 and 85. Unlike his matches leading up to the final, Selby established a dominant presence straight from the offset. That isn’t to say that Gilbert didn’t have any chances – Selby played a couple of loose safeties in Frame 2 which Gilbert couldn’t convert. Besides these, Selby’s safety was already too strong for Gilbert to compete with.
Frame 5 was the first frame to see any kind of back-and-forth action; so far it had just been frame winning contributions from Selby. One of Selby’s very few misses had come from a missed black at a break of 40. The black ending up on the other end of the table made it difficult for Gilbert to string a break. When Gilbert was 44-40 ahead, a safety battle commenced which ultimately went to Selby (with the help of a snooker that took Gilbert 7 attempts to escape).
Despite a valiant attempt to get into the match with a break of 101 in Frame 6, Gilbert was one-upped by practice partner Selby, with a subsequent 130 clearance. Selby followed this with a 97 in Frame 8. Frame 9 was effectively Gilbert’s last chance – he made a break of 51 but couldn’t continue. He had another chance at the table but misjudged the final red. Needless to say, Selby was able to clear the rest of the table and then take the final frame with a 101 break.
Let’s look at Gilbert and start with his play. He didn’t make too many mistakes in all honesty. The main concern came from his safeties which weren’t good enough in this match. He was always under/over-running the cue ball, rarely actually leaving it against the cushion. Under normal circumstances, he would get more opportunities to get into the match, but he happened to be playing against someone who was punishing literally every ball he missed. Most say that Gilbert was out of his element but I don’t think that’s completely fair. Selby was playing in a manner in which most other players would have deeply struggled with, and that includes those at the top.
And then there’s Selby. This was the kind of performance that enabled him to win 5 titles in 2016/17 and 3 World titles in 4 years. He ended with a 97% pot success but more importantly, he won almost every single frame with a one-visit contribution. Even when he wasn’t potting, he was causing trouble for Gilbert in his safeties. There wasn’t a weak facet in his game on Sunday.
The main difference between Selby and Gilbert is that Selby is a proven victor. It is a significantly more difficult final for someone who hasn’t won a ranking title. A win of this magnitude may give Selby the boost to get back into his consistent winning form. Two semi-finals prior to this will also add to this confident start to his campaign. Selby mentioned in interviews that he has been practicing well and he has been just trying to treat competitive play similar to that, and I think this is something key to his performance. If he can carry this forward, I would love to see him up against Trump, O’Sullivan or Robertson quite soon.
Stay tuned to Snooker Shorts for this Saturday’s Short post which will look at why David Gilbert shouldn’t be disappointed after the English Open!