The final of the World Championship begins on Sunday when Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy play out the first day of the two to determine who will be crowned champion of the biggest title of the season and walk off with a cool £500,000.
These two men came through wonderful semi-finals over the last three days and are now two days, four sessions and 18 frame wins away from immortality with either a fourth crown for Selby or a second world title for Murphy.
The three time champion Mark Selby cruised through the first three rounds of this competition but he was tested to the full in the semi-final when Stuart Bingham laid it down to him over the first three sessions of the match in particular. We saw some vintage Selby in the final session though as he came from 13-11 down to win 17-15 albeit after having to come back late at night having not got the fourth session done on time.
The first three rounds Selby was fluent and heavy scoring, the kind of things we know he has in his locker but isn’t naturally associated with. The semi-final was more in keeping with that as it was tight and tense and a number of times Selby used his table nous to get the better of Bingham. It will be interesting to see if such a battle took anything out of him, although he has been to the final plenty of times so if it has he knows how to survive.
There is a strong case to be made that Shaun Murphy has been the player of the tournament. That doesn’t always mean that he will win this final but it does tell us he deserves to be here and to be fair to him, based on what we’ve seen in the tournament so far he merits taking a lot of beating if he can keep his form up for another couple of days. Murphy knows how to win this title having done it in 2005 and having lost in a couple of finals since then he will be eager to get his hands back on the trophy.
What will give Murphy a lot of confidence is that he has won matches in this tournament from the front in terms of his second round match with Yan Bingtao and his quarter final with Judd Trump. He has also won matches from behind to Mark Davis in the first round and Kyren Wilson in the semi-final where he trailed 6-2, 10-4 and 12-9 before powering home to win 17-12. He is hitting the ball incredibly well and if he can impose his style on the final he will have every chance of winning it.
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Head to Head
These two friends have met on 27 previous occasions with Selby having a narrow lead with 14 wins to the 12 of Murphy. They have also played out a draw in one of the leagues back in the day. Selby holds the edge in the frame count as well with an 11 lead at 126-115. Selby also won their only previous match at the World Championship which was a semi-final back in 2007 when the Jester came out on top in a deciding frame in one of the better matches the Crucible has seem since the Millennium. This will be the fourth time the pair have met in a final with Selby holding a 2-1 edge in that regard too so history is on the side of the three-time world champion.
Both these men know what this final is about. They have both appeared in enough of them now to know how they work and as a result of that I expect this to be a pretty tight contest. Murphy is hitting the ball so well right now and scoring fantastically but Selby has this knack of being able to play these big matches, or enough of them at least, on his terms so I think there is plenty of intrigue to this final.
The bet I like is over 31.5 frames which means that we need the end score to be 18-14 or closer either way. Both players had to battle hard in their semi-finals and while I expect both to have their periods on top in this final, I don’t think either will give up without a real fight here. The fact Murphy has the edge on form on what we’ve seen this week only makes me like the over more here because we’ve seen Selby won’t go without a fight. My gut tells me Murphy wins this match but I’ll assess the match outcome at halfway. My first and only bet for the final before the off is over 31.5 frames.
WON – Back Over 31.5 frames for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Betfair
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