Mark Selby has won the Masters three times in his gilded career but the former world number one feels the Champion of Champions event is every bit as prestigious as the sport's most celebrated invitational tournament.
Speaking after recovering from 4-0 and 5-3 behind before completing a 6-5 win over recent World Championship finalist Kyren Wilson in the Group Three final behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, Selby revealed how important he views the tournament – won by icons Ray Reardon, Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins – in the wider snooker calendar.
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“I had a chance at the black to go 4-4 and losing that frame was a bit of a blow but I knew I needed to go again, dig my heels in, and that’s what I did," said Selby, who faces world number two Neil Robertson in a best-of-11 frames semi-final on Friday evening.
"I put this up there with the Masters, it’s a fantastic tournament. It’s only the second time I have been to the semi-finals, so I’ll look forward to it. "
“To go 4-0 down I didn’t play great, missed a few long balls, but every credit to Kyren because he played well and deserved to be 4-0 up,” said the European Masters winner.
“He potted some unbelievable long balls. Every time I left him a long one I expected him to pot it, but after the interval he kept going for them and wasn’t potting them and that changed the match."
Selby looked down and out as Wilson made an electric start by totting up the opening four frames that included knocks of 53 and 64.
A 58 and 74 helped Selby claw his way back to 4-3 behind, but a 58 break in the eighth frame wasn't enough as Wilson steeled himself to hole the final black for a 5-3 advantage.
Selby continued to battle as a 54 and some solid safety play cut the deficit to 5-4 before restoring parity at 5-5 with a dominant display in the penultimate frame.
With the momentum now firmly behind him, the three-times world champion produced a nerveless closing 74 to see out the contest in his favour.
Selby had enjoyed a 4-2 win over Belgium's leading player Luca Brecel earlier in the day with Wilson downing Stephen Maguire 4-1 with a majestic closing 130 and three 50-plus breaks enough to set up the Group Four decider.
World champion O'Sullivan begins his campaign against Michael Holt on Thursday afternoon at 1pm (GMT) with Mark Allen facing Scott Donaldson in the other Group Four contest.
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