World Snooker Championship: Mark Selby considered not defending his title due to mental health issues

Place: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Appointment: April 16-May 2
Cover: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and the BBC Sport app

Mark Selby admits he considered not defending his world title due to his ongoing battle with mental health issues – and said winning in Sheffield would be his greatest achievement.

Selby, 38, begins his campaign for a fifth Crucible crown on Saturday against Welsh qualifier Jamie Jones.

In January, the Leicester player has opened up publicly about his mental health struggles saying he ‘needs help’.

However, he decided to compete after seeing “a bit of improvement”.

Selby enters the 17-day tournament without playing a competitive match since March 2, when he was beaten in the Welsh Open Round of 64 by Liam Highfield, and he subsequently withdrew from the Turkish Masters and the Gibraltar Open.

Instead of stepping up her preparations for snooker’s showpiece event, Selby instead took a holiday to Dubai with her family.

After a heavy loss to Barry Hawkins at the London Masters, Selby admitted a “tremendous weight” had been lifted from his shoulders after revealing his mental health issues.

“A few months ago, I was [considering not playing]”said world number two Selby.

“When I decided to pull out of the other two tournaments, I didn’t pull out of Worlds because you didn’t need to let them know at the time.

“I wasn’t even thinking about playing in there, I thought I’d just give the next few weeks, see how it goes with the doctor and if I feel a bit better I’ll come and play because it would be a shame not to come. here as the defending champion and try to play.

“Even if you’re just there and not playing, at least you can say you’ve been here and tried to defend it. I was thinking about it, but over the weeks I saw a bit of self-improvement, so we’ll give it a try.”

Selby has won a total of 20 ranking titles and, when asked if winning the title would be his greatest achievement, he replied: “Maybe yes, of course, because the game is quite difficult anyway. way.

“Being here for two weeks is quite exhausting mentally and physically. It’s going to be a challenge for me, but a challenge that I’m ready to take on and we’ll see what happens.”

Sometimes I wish I had done something else – O’Sullivan

Six-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has returned to the top of the world rankings ahead of the tournament and is aiming to equal Stephen Hendry’s seven Crucible titles in Sheffield.

But the Rocket faces a tough first-round game against dangerous qualifier David Gilbert and has sympathy for Selby who has battled mental health issues himself.

O’Sullivan said: “Be careful if you want to play this game because you indulge in a lot of disappointment, loneliness, a lot of dedication, a lot of playing in an environment where you don’t talk to each other. ‘other.

“When you count all of this together, you have to ask yourself, is this really healthy? So before you undertake something like this, you need to have a plan in place to reserve your own sanity.

“Sometimes I would have liked to do something else, but whatever you do, it will be difficult. If you want to be the best hairdresser in the world, I’m sure there will be ups and downs with that, and you look at the rewards and ask yourself if it’s worth it?

“I would have preferred to go through the stresses and pains of being a golfer or an F1 or rally driver or a footballer in a team sport because nothing is easy so if nothing is easy you at least think where are the advantages?

“If I have to go through all this stress and pain, I can at least look back and say it lessened the blow.”

No regrets this year – Robertson

Meanwhile, Australian Neil Robertson enters the tournament as the favorite as the in-form player of the season, winning four titles including the Masters and being a beaten runner-up in another.

But his World Championship record has been surprisingly poor since winning the trophy in 2010, reaching just one semi-final eight years ago.

“Terrible, it’s awful. Shocking,” Robertson told BBC Sport. “There were a couple of unlucky quarter-finals where it got very close and then there were times when I was in a good position and eased off, especially in recent years.

“This season I’ve been good at keeping my footing and winning games very well and also getting back into games and winning.

“I have to accept that I’m not the best safety player like John Higgins or Mark Selby, but my best strength is attacking play, getting the balls in the open and making big breaks.

“The last few years I’ve been beaten here, I thought I would have liked to play my game more. The worst thing in sport isn’t winning or losing, it’s regrets. This year, there will be none of that.”

Analysis

1997 world champion Ken Doherty told PA:

“I think Neil Robertson is the favorite with the way he plays, but he also came with high expectations last year.

“You have to question him because he admitted he doesn’t like it. I think it could be a big year for Ronnie O’Sullivan to win his seventh, and there’s a case for both players Chinese (Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong) goes very deep.

“Hopefully Mark Selby will be able to defend the trophy solidly. When Mark is playing at his best he is very strong and has proven himself over the long format.

“Mark has the game and the temper to win as many titles as O’Sullivan, but this year has been a very difficult year for him, and obviously his mental health issues have to come first.”

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