Mark Selby insists he is braced for a terrific tug of war over the world No1 ranking with Judd Trump this season.
The reigning and four-time world champion snatched back the pole position he lost in March 2019 during last week’s British Open in Leicester – despite an early exit. But the Leicester Jester’s return to the summit of the game is set to be brief – with ‘the Juddernaut’ guaranteed to overtake him again after the Northern Ireland Open in October.
Looking towards Christmas, Selby, 38, has a great chance of leap-frogging his fierce rival once more as Trump will be unable to defend lucrative wins in China from two years ago. But even Selby admits that he may have “stolen” the celebrated position this time, with Trump, 32, having won 11 titles to his five in the two-year ranking eligibility period.
An angry Trump had said this month after losing the coveted top spot: “I do still feel like the best player, but I always have since I was younger. It just took me a while to prove it.
“In no other sport is the best tournament weighted so heavily to the biggest one that you wouldn’t have to play another tournament for two years to stay in the top four or so. It is ridiculous, stupid really.
“It is great to have that big prize and Mark Selby deserves it, the worlds should be the biggest, but maybe the rankings should be on points more evenly distributed rather than just money.
“I don’t know how he feels about it and whether he thinks he deserves to be No1, but you can’t win 11 events and your opponent five without something having gone wrong.
“But I will be doing my best to get it back, it’s just that doing it without winning the world championship is an impossible task. It needs to be changed.”
Selby, who was remarkably No1 for over four years continuously until March 2019, has now spoken for the first time since being back on top of the pile.
He responded: “Getting back to No1 was one of my main goals – I said it in public, and obviously winning the World Championship really helped with the big first prize.
“At one stage all of us including me miles behind Judd – and I even said to my wife Vikki that it felt a bit as if I had stolen it from him. The last two seasons he has been unbelievable.
“He won six tournaments in 2019-20 and then another five last season, so 11 in the two-year rolling period with me on five – though one of them was at the Crucible.
“And I got there by losing in the second round of the British Open, but that’s not my doing, just the way the system works – whether people think it’s right or wrong.
“I understand whatever happens at the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast it will switch back to Judd.
“And then as some of his points fall off from two years ago with £200,000-odd to defend I have a great chance of getting it back yet again from him around November to December.
“So there is the prospect of a real tug of war, a rollercoaster battle for that No1 spot. Me winning in Sheffield got it back close again, and it was always going to be game on.
“It will be difficult for Judd to win all those tournaments again, and two of them worth big money, the International and the World Open in China, won’t be happening at all.
“Though Judd has won more titles, it’s not like I haven’t been winning. As well as the world title I won two other tournaments last season, and two the season before.
“For most top players they’d take that, the standard is so high. But that also speaks a lot about what Judd has done winning six and then five.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit Judd has been the player of the moment over the last two seasons, and fully deserved his big lead last year.
“But he didn’t have a world title win in those two years, so maybe when you look at it that way then I do deserve it.
“And it has brought it home to everyone, Judd included I suppose, that in the current system if you really want to be world No1 then you probably have to win the world title, at least one year out of the two.
“Whoever wins at the Crucible is always going to be there or thereabouts at the top of the rankings, because it is already one of the top player who tends to win it.
“But I am sure that Judd will win more than the one world title he has at the moment. He is only 32 and has plenty of time on his side.”