Mark Selby steels himself for Sheffield defence of World Championship
Last Updated: 25/04/15 3:00pm
Mark Selby is hoping to conquer the 'Curse of the Crucible' when he defends his title at the BetFred World Championship which starts in Sheffield later this month.
Not since snooker’s Blue Riband event moved to the Crucible Theatre in 1977 has any first-time champion successfully claimed back-to-back crowns.
As many as 15 first-time winners have failed when returning to the venue as champion – Terry Griffiths, Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor, Joe Johnson, Stephen Hendry, John Parrott, Ken Doherty, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Peter Ebdon, Shaun Murphy, Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson.
And since 1996 only one player, O’Sullivan, has won successive World Championships in Sheffield. The Essex man won his fourth and fifth titles in 2012 and 2013, before losing to Selby in the final 12 months ago.
The 31-year-old from Leicester is in good form right now, having just clinched the China Open, and is fully aware of the Crucible history regarding newly crowned champions, saying: "The record speaks for itself.
"It is in the back of my mind, you can't take that away. I feel I'm confident enough and have just won my last tournament so I feel ready to defend it.
"Just to win it once, as I did last year, was a fantastic achievement for me but to win it twice and break the curse would be outstanding.
"I also heard that no-one has ever won the China Open and then gone on to win the World Championship so you could say there are two records."
One of the most famous moments in tournament history was a first round defeat for Steve Davis who – as a dominant world No 1 in 1982 – was beaten 10-1 by Tony Knowles.
In fact, only two of the 15 first time champs have actually reached the final when defending – Joe Johnson in 1987 and Ken Doherty in 1998 – and Selby is not surprised by this.
The current world No 1 added: "It is such a hard tournament to win. Just to win it one time is hard enough and to go there and try and defend it is twice as hard.
"You look at the players who have won it over the years, O'Sullivan, Hendry, Steve Davis – it just shows you how hard the tournament is.
"I will be definitely trying harder, it will be in the back of my mind to inspire me and push me on even more.
"Now I'm trying to make a name for myself I have noticed that players are raising their game against you because you are seen as more of a scalp than you were five or six years ago – in a way that just shows what you have achieved and is a good accolade."
Yet Selby accepts he will not go into the event as tournament favourite: "Ronnie is Ronnie. He is one of the greatest to play our game – if not the greatest. He will always be in with a shout.
"I may be the defending champion but he will still probably go there as favourite and nobody would disagree with that, he is still the one to beat."
Neither Davis or fellow snooker great Jimmy White will feature at this year's tournament – both were eliminated in qualifying on Monday night.