Mark Selby is the first player through to the semi-finals of the 2022 Cazoo Champion of Champions beating John Higgins 6-4 in the Group 4 final at the Bolton Stadium Hotel, University of Bolton Stadium live on ITV4 and broadcasters worldwide.
Selby has played in all ten editions of the tournament and got proceedings underway looking to reach only his third semi-final in an event that has alluded him so far. The Jester from Leicester came out firing against World Seniors champion Lee Walker who was competing in what could be his last professional outing. Selby took the opening frame after just over half an hour before a quick break of 82 put him two ahead in the best of seven. Momentum was in Selby’s favour as he racked up the following frame before a clearance of 88 ensured he would face either Hossein Vafaei or Higgins in the Group Final.
Higgins found himself up against a buoyant Vafaei looking to reignite a year that has seen the Iranian claim his first-ranking event title and reach the Crucible for the first time. Vafaei made the early running with an 83 to take the opener before Higgins responded with small runs of 23, and 27 helping him level. The 2021 runner-up hit the front in the third frame before he was soon one away at 3-1. The contest ebbed and flowed with quality on show as Vafaei came to the table to make 72 to be one back again. Higgins saved the best until last though with the first century of the week to seal a 4-2 win.
The group final began at a canter with Selby making the biggest break of the tournament with a brilliant clearance of 140 after Higgins had played a poor safety. It was a shining light for Selby early doors who looked in a free-flowing mood. Higgins came back with a contribution of 57 to ease him into the match at 1-1 before a re-rack in the third frame slowed things down only for the Scotsman to find his feet and lead. Selby and Higgins share eight world crowns between them, and it was starting to deliver as the former levelled at the interval for 2-2.
After the interval, Selby took the initiative once again at 3-2 thanks to a 64 to be halfway towards the frames required to feature in Friday’s semi-final against the winner of Wednesday’s Group 1 containing Judd Trump, Mark Allen, Luca Brecel, and Joe Perry.
For an opening day battle, this one was one to whet the appetite for what was to come as the pair traded blows like a heavyweight boxing match. Higgins got back in the sixth with a steely clearance of 141 to topple Selby’s earlier 140. The contest soon became a best of three when they locked horns again at 4-4.
Another century clearance, this time from Selby brought the Jester one away from the semi-finals in the ninth frame. In what proved to be the last frame, Higgins made the early move with 45 points on the board, but Selby highlighted his goals to finally take home the Cazoo Champion of Champions title with a gutsy clearance of 81 to win it.
Selby: “It’s been a long day but worthwhile in the end. I played okay in the afternoon. I knew I had to be at the top of my game playing John tonight, and I did that. I thought it was a great game. If I’d come out on the losing side, I didn’t think I could’ve done any more than I did. I managed to make a good break in the last and hold myself together. Matchroom and every involved put on a great event every time we come. It’s great to be involved in the back end of it. I will likely stay around here. Put my feet up and watch everyone else sweat it out.”
Tomorrow sees Cazoo Masters champion Neil Robertson take on the European Masters winner Fan Zhengyi before Kyren Wilson meets recent British Open title winner Ryan Day live on ITV4 in the UK, DAZN in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Spain, and Italy as well as on Viaplay in Scandinavia and the Baltics and Matchroom.Live if you are in a country without a broadcaster. See the full list of where to watch here.