Mark Selby hailed “the best night” of his life after winning the world title for a second time, 13 minutes after his home town Leicester were crowned Premier League champions.
Selby, 32, beat China’s Ding Junhui 18-14 to become only the sixth multiple winner of the title in the modern era.
“I don’t know what is more of a shock, me winning it a second time or Leicester becoming champions,” he said.
“To win the title once is great, but to win it twice is a dream come true.”
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At the start of the season, Leicester were 5,000-1 to become champions, while world number one Selby went into the final still searching for his best form.
“Hopefully in another two years they will win the Premier League again and I will come back and win again,” he added.
“I’m quite emotional. When you look at people who’ve won it twice, to join that elite group is something special.”
Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams are the only players in the modern era to have won two or more titles.
Selby’s first world title victory against O’Sullivan in 2014 was the same year in which Leicester were promoted to the top flight from the Championship.
On Monday evening, Selby – whose nickname is the Jester from Leicester – potted the first red of his match-winning 74 break at the same time as the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge.
“I didn’t know Leicester had won it until after,” he said. “The guy who was sat next to me called Brian told me the Chelsea v Tottenham game was 2-2 and Leicester are champions. That was the first time I knew.
“Going out there, I knew the game was kicking off but I tried not to think about it too much to distract me from what I had to do.”
Selby brushes off criticism
Selby admitted he had played “average or lower” during the tournament and came in for criticism because of his slow and meticulous style of play.
A 66-minute frame on the first day of the final was just six minutes short of the longest frame at the Crucible, set by Selby and Marco Fu in the semi-final.
Asked if the disapproval of his performances upset him, Selby said: “Not really. Some of the frames I made breaks in one visit and I looked at the time and it played on my mind a little.
“When I made a break, I looked at the scoreboard and saw it was around 10 or 11 minutes so obviously it was not that slow.
“It was just when the frames were scrappy, when I played safe, and that put Ding under pressure.”
Ding finally feels at home
China’s Ding came over to England at the age of 15 and has been living in Sheffield – the home of the Crucible Theatre – for the past decade.
The 29-year-old qualifier missed the chance to become the first Asian world champion, but despite falling short this time, showed his class with 15 centuries during the tournament.
“It is the first time I felt like I have played at home,” he said. “The fans wanted me to win the title and they love to see other countries’ players win it. It felt good.
“People will be disappointed in China but there is nothing disappointing in reaching the final. I just wanted to enjoy the day.
“Five years ago I was in the semi-finals, this year I took one step up, maybe next year I will win it, but it is great experience for my career. I may never have a chance again but I enjoyed the final. Not many players can get in the final.”
Reprieve and resolve – key moments from the final
Frame two, an early blow: Needing a snooker with the colours from the green remaining, Selby managed to get it and cleared to go 2-0 ahead.
Frame seven, on the board: Having fallen 6-0 behind, Ding finally got his first frame of the final. He needed a couple of chances but the puff of the cheeks showed his relief.
Frame 10, a reprieve: Selby was in among the reds when a miscue allowed Ding to counter-attack with a 76 break and he took the next two as well to go 7-5 behind.
Frame 15, marathon of the mind: Ding won the 66-minute frame but it seemed to take a lot out of him as Selby won the next two to lead 10-7 after the first day.
Frame 23, resolve: Ding had closed to within one at 11-10, but Selby made a breaks of 52 and 68 to hold a 14-11 advantage.
Frame 27, winning line in sight: Ding was on 60 points when he lost position on the penultimate red as Selby cleared up to go two away from victory.
Frame 31, the clincher: Ding had made breaks of 73, 70 and 103 to leave Selby without making a pot for an hour, but the Englishman took a scrappy 50-minute frame to edge closer to the winning line which he managed in the next frame.
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