NEWLY-CROWNED UK champion Mark Selby said there were times he wondered whether he would be able to pick up a cue again.
The Leicester potter, who claimed his first williamhill.com UK Snooker Championship title after beating Shaun Murphy 10-6 at the Barbican on Sunday, never had any doubts he would be able to get back to the highest level – but was concerned whether he’d recover from a career-threatening neck injury.
Selby suffered a trapped nerve in his neck at the China Open in March and was subsequently almost unable to move his head during a first-round loss to Barry Hawkins at the World Championships the following month.
A lay-off then affected his confidence, made his results suffer, and saw Judd Trump strip him of his spot at the top of the game’s rankings.
But after beating Murphy in York without being at the top of his game, Selby plans to relax more in the future, having once again eclipsed Trump to be the world’s best and after pocketing the game’s second biggest tournament to prove it.
“I never had any doubts,” he said when asked if there were times he had questioned his ability to get back to the top. “I had more doubts about the injury and whether it would go completely and whether I would be able to play snooker again.
“But it did and I never had any doubts I would get back and would be competing in tournaments again to a good level.
“At the same time, the confidence was a big blow and I am still getting that back now.”
He continued: “In a way, as bad as my injury was with my neck, there was probably a plus side as well. At one stage, I was looking at whether I was going to play again, and now I am playing and competing again. It has not returned for so long, and I am still practising day in day out. I think if it was going to return at some stage it would have done by now.
“If it does, I will have to cross that bridge. Don’t get me wrong, it can come back but, as long as I keep getting treatment and be careful and don’t do anything stupid, I should be okay.”
On the frustrations of his injury, of not being able to practise and then perform to his high standards, Selby added: “If we are coming up to play in tournaments I am practising every day for four or five hours. Some players will only do two or three hours and feel as though they can do that – or not even practise every day – but for me, especially as much as I love the game, I want to be playing all the while and in tournaments.
“If I am sat at home and watching other people winning, it is upsetting.”
Reflecting on his victory over Murphy, Selby said: “I put a lot of pressure on myself because it is not every day you get to a UK final. Who is to say I will ever get there again?
“I knew, once I was out there and I had that chance, that I wanted to give it my all and make sure I did everything right and did my best to win.”