Behind The Curtain: Guangzhou!

Selby Back On Form With China Open Victory

Mark Selby beat Barry Hawkins 11-3 in the final of the Fuhua Group China Open to win the title for a second consecutive year in Beijing.

World number one Selby took the top prize of £225,000 – the biggest for any event other than the World Championship – by dominating the final against Hawkins.

It’s a welcome return to form for Leicester’s 34-year-old Selby as he won the 14th ranking title of his career, moving him ahead of Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson into sixth place on his own on the all-time list.

Selby has struggled for consistency this season; he won the International Championship in China in November but prior to this week he had reached the semi-finals of just one other ranking event this term.

By winning the China Open for the third time, having lifted the trophy in 2015 and 2017, he gives himself a huge boost of confidence going into the Betfred World Championship, which starts on April 21. Selby heads to the Crucible aiming to capture the crown for the fourth time since 2014.

He has now won 11 of his last 12 ranking finals, going back to the 2014 World Championship, and Selby re-asserts his grip on the world number one place, having seen his lead dented by Ronnie O’Sullivan in recent months. He has held top spot since February 2015 and is now sure to remain there well into next season.

Hawkins missed the chance to win a fourth ranking title and has now lost two finals within five weeks having finished runner-up to John Higgins at the Welsh Open. The 38-year-old Londoner earns £90,000 and moves up two places to sixth in the rankings.

The opening frame of the final went to Hawkins thanks to a break of 53, but Selby then took the next three with top runs of 65 and 53, before winning frame fives and six with crucial clearances to lead 5-1.

Hawkins pulled one back with a break of 75 but his opponent stamped his authority on the match as runs of 90, 75 and 43 left Selby 8-2 up at the end of the first session.

When they returned it was more of the same from Selby as breaks of 112 and 83 extended his lead to 10-2. Hawkins won frame 13 on the colours but Selby finished in style in the 14th with a 132 total clearance.

“I played good matchplay snooker in the first session and capitalised on the balls that Barry missed,” said Selby. “Then I scored well in the second session. I have felt good all week, as if my game was coming back. It’s very satisfying to be able to go out there knowing my game is in good shape. Coming here I didn’t know what to expect, but it couldn’t have gone any better.

“In the early part of my career I got to a lot of ranking finals and lost. I doubted myself for a while. Since then it has been hard work, dedication and practice, I started winning them and gained more belief.

“The way I have performed in most of my matches here, playing well and scoring well, my confidence will be high going to Sheffield.”

Hawkins said: “I’m very disappointed because I played so well yesterday in the semi-finals. I didn’t give Mark a game today, I made it so easy for him. I just kept missing easy balls and I don’t know why. I was confident going into the match, but as it went on that faded away.

“Mark is so tough to play against. He’s happy to scrap it out, but then when he comes back to the table he finds his rhythm again. I struggle to do that, maybe that’s something I need to learn. He makes his opponents play badly and that’s a great weapon to have.”