Phil Haigh ✍️
Mark Selby enjoyed an emotional return to the Crucible on Saturday as he began the defence of his World Championship title with a 10-7 win over Jamie Jones, while he continues to deal with mental health issues.
The 38-year-old is back in the venue where he won his fourth world title a year ago, but it has been a really tough time for him since that amazing night when he beat Shaun Murphy.
Speaking out about his ongoing mental health problems in January, Selby has taken a step back from snooker over the last couple of months and said he had not prepared as thoroughly as normal for a trip to Sheffield.
He was not at his best against Jones, but such is his quality that he was able to make three big centuries (137, 134 and 129) and four more half-centuries en route to victory.
After the win, the defending champion said that his mental state has improved and it was emotional in a positive sense as he stepped into the Crucible Theatre again.
‘Better,’ Selby told Eurosport when asked how he is feeling. ‘It was tough, it was quite emotional going out there today, because the last two tournaments I’ve not played because it’s been quite tough.
‘I’ve been working with this doctor for a little while, he told me to carry on playing at the start, but I just felt like it was getting a bit too much, a bit too much pressure and with me not being in the right mental state. So we gave it a go but then we took a break.
‘I was still up in the air over whether I was going to play in this or not. The last few weeks I’ve done a lot of sessions with him and he’s got me a little bit better, I’m definitely on the right track.’
The source of Selby’s troubles has long been known to be the tragic death of his father when he was a teenager, something that has left mental strains over 20 years later.
‘It’s never been the snooker that’s been the pressure that’s put me in the state I’m in,’ he explained. ‘It’s my past, losing my dad so young, I know people lose loved ones every day, but I’ve never really coped with it as much as other people and let it out. I bottled it up, it ended up snowballing and it got to the point where I had to speak out.
‘I got a great standing ovation walking out this morning and a great ovation tonight. It was quite emotional. I’ve had a lot of support on social media after speaking out as well.
‘Snooker’s such a hard game even if you’re in the right mental state, if you’re not in the right mental state then its doubly hard.
‘Just coming here for the tournament got me thinking a bit better and feeling more positive. I said I’m going to give it a go. No way in the world I wanted to not be in it as defending champ.’
Next up for Selby is either Yan Bingtao or Chris Wakelin and while Selby will be scrapping to the best of his abilities to win again, victory or defeat is not all-important to him at the moment.
‘The result today was irrelevant,’ he said. ‘As long as I tried to enjoy it, smile a little bit, which I did. Whatever happens, happens. The main thing for me is getting myself better.
‘Jamie’s a great player and he said to me at the end: “Well done mate, it’s nice to see you back.” That was a nice touch.
‘Never mind the centuries, I actually enjoyed the game today. I was sat in my chair at 9-7 thinking, “If he comes back and beats me 10-9 I can walk away thinking I actually enjoyed that.”
‘That’s been missing most of this year. I’ve not been performing great but not enjoying it either. I’ve said that the time I stop enjoying the game is the time I hang my cue up.
‘Because I love the game, obviously being in a tough mental state was difficult. Especially in snooker, sat in your chair for long periods of time, you’re going into your own head space. It wasn’t good. That’s why I took the break.’
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