Snooker: Mark Selby goes for Masters glory
Mark Selby believes a timely return to his best form can help him pocket the second leg of snooker's 'triple crown'.
Having "grafted" his way to the UK Championship title last month, the world No.1 is playing with confidence again and has set his sights on winning the Masters crown.
Selby opens his campaign with a first-round match against Stuart Bingham tonight, at Alexandra Palace in London.
The Masters is invitation-only for the world's top-16 ranked players, and is considered third in terms of prestige behind only the UK and the World Championship.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Only three players have won all three titles in the same season – Steve Davis (1987-88), Steven Hendry (1989-90 and 1995-96) and Mark Williams (2002-03) – and Selby is confident he can become the newest member of that elite group.
The 'Jester from Leicester' has Masters form, having lifted the title twice before, in 2008 and 2010.
But it is his form on the table during the past few weeks that has got him buzzing, beginning after his UK triumph and continuing with the Munich Open title in Germany earlier this month, which is part of the European Tour series.
"Winning in Germany was a really strange feeling," said the 29-year-old.
"Even though it's a minor tournament and doesn't carry much prestige, I almost took more satisfaction from winning that than I did from the UK.
"Immediately after the UK, I didn't feel as though I'd won the title, but that other players had lost it against me.
"I'd just grafted my way to the title without playing particularly well, whereas in Germany I played really well and was very happy with my game.
"Even after the UK I was still doubting myself.
"I'd gone into the tournament not playing well all season, and being too negative, so to end up winning the title without reaching my 'A game' should have filled me with confidence, but it didn't.
"Instead, I went straight to the practice table thinking things were still wrong.
"Then I realised that I had to start taking the positives. If I could win a major title like that without playing at my very best, then I must have been doing something right.
"I've overcome it now. I know my game is good and I feel like I've got my old confidence and self-belief back.
"I'm playing more attacking snooker and playing to win, and that makes me hard to beat, as I proved in Munich. I hope it carries on to the Masters.
"Winning in Munich was great preparation. I've been building on that and I know I stand a very good chance of a third title."
In world No.10 Bingham, Selby faces one of the toughest opponents he could have imagined but, as always, he is taking it one game at a time.
"He's been one of the best players on the tour in recent months and, although none of the top-16 players would be easy, Stuart is one of the names you'd prefer to avoid," he said.
"There are no easy games, no one is going to freeze and, because it's the Masters, everyone tries that bit harder.
"It's a true test of your game, and that's why I'm particularly satisfied that I've done so well in it in the past.
"It's a tournament I love, and the one-table situation seems to suit me.
"I like the way that every game feels like a final.
"I know that only three players have won all three of the 'big ones' in the same season, and it would be great to join such an exalted group.
"But I'm not looking too far ahead.
"If I get to the final, then maybe I would start thinking about it, but not until I get to that stage."