Mark Selby took firm command of the Betfred World Championship final.

Mark Selby races into early lead over Ding Junhui in World Championship final

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Mark Selby produced his finest snooker of the tournament to seize control of the Betfred World Championship final.

The 32-year-old had stumbled through the rounds to reach his third title match at the Crucible, but come the big occasion his performance soared.

Opponent Ding Junhui made a terrible start to the biggest match of his life and Selby swept to a 6-2 lead after the opening session. It could have been worse for Ding, who at one stage trailed 6-0.

In the best-of-35 contest, there is always leeway for a slow start. Dennis Taylor famously won the world title in 1985 from 8-0 adrift of Steve Davis, and Ronnie O'Sullivan trailed Graeme Dott 5-0 in 2004 before hot-footing to an 18-8 victory.

But the manner of Ding's early showing was concerning on many counts. For those hoping the clash of two snooker titans would produce a thrilling match, there was the sense of letdown. For Ding's many millions of supporters watching at home in China, late at night, there was despondency.

And for those with tickets for the evening session on Monday, there must have been the suspicion the match would be already over by then.

To the relief therefore of many, Ding took the final two frames of the session to slow the procession.

Victory with a session to spare for Selby had until that point looked entirely feasible, with a further nine frames to be played tonight and eight on Monday afternoon.

Such a rapid win last occurred in 1993, when Stephen Hendry drubbed Jimmy White 18-5. The heaviest defeat in a Crucible final came in 1989, when John Parrott took an 18-3 pounding at the hands of Steve Davis.

Selby swept 4-0 in front at the mid-session interval with breaks of 91, 76 and 120, and in the one frame where he did not make a major score he arguably inflicted a greater blow on Ding, taking it from a position where he needed a snooker and a clearance. A baffling attempt to cut in the green by Ding, when it looked an impossible shot, was the Chinese cueman's downfall.

Monday could bring twin sporting celebrations for Selby's home city of Leicester, as he bids to win a second world title and Claudio Ranieri's Premier League leaders hope a favour from Chelsea against Tottenham brings them trophy glory.

Ding showed no immediate response after an interval pep talk from Terry Griffiths, the 1979 world champion and a man labelled "Obi-Wan Griffiths" by Australian cueman Neil Robertson. Griffiths has worked with Ding on his mental approach to snooker, and the 29-year-old's calm demeanour over the past fortnight has been noticed.

Selby remained on top, pushing out his lead to 6-0 and then looking for all the world to be heading seven clear, only to jam the blue around the jaws of the yellow pocket. Ding knocked it in and finally had a frame on the board.

His second swiftly followed thanks to breaks of 31, 35 and 41, and Ding had a foothold in the match, albeit needing a far stronger evening session.

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World Snooker Championship
Ding Junhui
Mark Selby

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