Mark Selby lost to Luca Brecel in a memorable World Championship final, but while he was heartbroken, he realized there were more important things in his life.
“Twelve months ago, it was just nice to come back and just play and try to enjoy it,” he explained to BBC Sport. “I’ve enjoyed the last two weeks from where I’ve been to where I am now.”
“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but with things going on off the table, not just with me but also with Vikki, you know, obviously I realize that health is more important.” This is a game that you want to win, but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world.
Brecel was gracious in victory, echoing the views of his defeated opponent. “I have the best team, family, girlfriend, and friends, and it makes you so strong,” he explained. “And I just want to tell Mark and Vikki to stay strong.”
Vikki Layton, Selby’s wife, is a regular face at the Crucible, having stood by her husband’s side not only for disappointments like Monday, but also for his four World Championship triumphs. She has played a critical role in Selby’s phenomenally successful career.
The couple originally met in 2006 at the World Pool Championships. Vikki is a former international pool player who served as Ireland’s captain for ten years. Her background in high-level sport, particularly one as similar to snooker, has aided their relationship’s development.
“She understands what it takes to get to the top and what you must do.” “It’s obviously great in that way, and that’s why we’re close and work,” Selby once told the BBC.
Aside from the snooker table, she also assisted Selby in other ways. “He had a flat in the middle of Leicester and it literally had nothing in it at all,” Vikki told Sky Sports. “His kitchen was that clean, he obviously had never used it, he didn’t have any pots or anything.”
The couple got engaged in Venice in 2010 and married a year later. In May 2011, they married in Mexico, and in 2014, they had their first child, Sofia, who has witnessed all four of Selby’s Crucible victories.
Because of the sadness in his family life, the marriage has been very essential for the 39-year-old from Leicester. Selby’s mother Shirley abandoned him when he was eight years old, and his father died of cancer when he was sixteen.
“I haven’t seen my mother in years.” “She still lives in Leicester, but I don’t see her very often,” he told Eurosport in 2015. Selby struggled to communicate about his mother’s departure at first, but gradually opened up to Vikki.
“When I first met Mark, he didn’t really speak about it a lot,” she told Sky Sports. It took him a long time to open up about everything, but once he did, he found it easier to talk about it more and more.”
Selby became close to Vikki’s family, and after he won his second world title against Ding Junhui in 2016, he dedicated his victory to his late father-in-law, who died in September 2015: “I’ve not really got that much family, so I class Vikki’s family as my own.”
Selby’s success has relied heavily on his emotional support network. When asked if he wanted Vikki to attend every tournament he competed in, Selby replied, “Yeah, definitely.” If I could afford it, I would take her to every single tournament I compete in, since the most of the time, every tournament she attends, I do well, advance to the finals, if not win it. I’m not doing so well when she’s not around.”
During difficult times, she has been there to support him. Last year, he experienced a bulged disc in his neck, which jeopardized his ability to continue on tour. “Vikki was great to be honest, as she always is,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “I was there at the time,
Struggles with mental health
Selby’s greatest battle has not been physical, but mental. Last January, he came up about his mental health concerns on social media, tweeting, “Just want to apologise to all my friends and family for letting them down.” Mentally, I’m not in a good position right now; I had a relapse, and trying to bottle it up and put on a brave face isn’t going to work. I swear I’ll get help and become a better person. #mentalhealth.”
Before the Masters in January of this year, Selby opened up about his troubles – and Vikki’s support. “It’s probably been harder for her than it has been for me in many ways,” he said. “She hasn’t always said the correct thing.
“The psychiatrist made a point of telling me that whatever I was feeling, those closest to me would be feeling the same or worse effects.” And she’s been a rock; I honestly believe that if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I owe everything to her. And the other half is always correct, aren’t they? I should have paid attention to her the first time.
“Vikki had been telling me for ages, ‘Be brave and speak out,’ but it never felt like the right time.” Even when I performed it, it didn’t work, which is probably why I did it on social media. To say the least, I’ve been astounded by the outpouring of support.”
Six-time World Champion Steve Davis explained the importance of Vikki to Selby’s career succinctly. “If somebody has something in their life that all of a sudden gives them more of a purpose and, in a way, takes the pressure off the personal winning and makes it more of a team effort,” he said. “If you can play for someone else, and feel like you’re part of a team, I think it’s easier to play snooker and win.”
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