Mark Williams in relaxed mood as he chases Crucible glory

Mark Williams. Photo: Nigel Roddis/PA WireMark Williams. Photo: Nigel Roddis/PA Wire
Mark Williams. Photo: Nigel Roddis/PA Wire
Mark Williams is relishing the chance to face Ronnie O’Sullivan in a Betfred World Championship showdown.

The duo – who share eight Crucible crowns between them – have been leading figures on the snooker circuit after emerging together in the early Nineties.

But the duo have not faced each other in Sheffield since 2012 – when O’Sullivan triumphed 13-6.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Welshman Williams secured his quarter-final spot at the Crucible yesterday with a 13-11 win over Stuart Bingham, and awaits the winner of O’Sullivan and Sheffield-based Ding Junhui.

“I would love to play Ronnie in the next round because we grew up together as juniors and we haven’t played here for a while,” said three-time Crucible champion Williams.

“I would have to play out of my skin and even if I did it still might not be enough.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen? If I lose 13-0 I’ll just go home.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“All the pressure would be on Ronnie and I would just enjoy the experience.”

World No 3 Williams – at 45, the oldest player to reach the last eight in Sheffield since Steve Davis in 2010 – showed he still has the appetite for a fight against Bingham.

The left-hander – whose Crucible titles came in 2000, 2003 and 2018 – battled back from 9-8 down to win five of the last seven frames.

“There was a lot of pressure in that session and I produced my best stuff,” said Williams.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

People can question my game but they can’t question my bottle. It’s not easy out there but I stuck in there.

“I threw away a few frames and missed easy balls but that’s my game now – when I miss I have to put it out of my mind.

“I always really enjoy it and even though I was throwing frames away in the first session I was still enjoying it - it’s only a snooker match. If I lost it today it wouldn’t have been through lack of trying.”

A fourth title for Williams would haul him level with John Higgins on the all-time list yet, having clambered back to the top of his sport following his unlikely 2018 success, Williams continues to resist comparisons with the so-called ‘Class of 92’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They (O’Sullivan and Higgins) are a class above me,” Williams insisted. “When I came through I was always behind them, and I was just happy to nick some tournaments off them. You can’t really put me in the same bracket.

“I thought I wasn’t going to win it again but I managed to scrape through and win a third one. Now I’m in the quarter-finals I’ve got as good a chance as anyone. I’m only one behind John Higgins now so if I did win it again it would be unbelievable.”

Mark Selby, another three-time champion, summoned a 124 clearance in the final-frame decider to see off Thai qualifier Noppon Saengkham, who had threatened to add to the growing casualty list of seeds in the tournament.

Selby looked home and dry after a break of 92 moved him 12-10 in front, but Saengkham, who beat former world champion Shaun Murphy in the opening round, threatened to repeat the feat as he hauled the match 
back level with a 90 break of his own.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Saengkham got the first chance in the decider but ran out of position and Selby seized his first opportunity to win the match in style and make it back to the quarter-finals for the first time since he last won the tournament in 2017.

Selby said: “It’s nice to know that when I’ve got under pressure I’ve managed to produce again, because that was missing for a few years, especially at the Crucible.

“When I’ve been asked the question before, sometimes over the last few years I’ve not really held up, so it’s nice to know that it’s still there and I’m not going on a downward spiral.

“I’m really proud to have made that break in the last frame.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It was a great match – that was as well as I have played in a while and I still just scraped through.

“I have been tested and that could help me later in the event,” said Selby, who faces the winner of Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson in the Crucible quarter-finals.

“I have lacked a bit of confidence lately so I’ve been working with (coach) Chris Henry to help me belief in myself.

“We have done a bit on the technical side but it has mainly been mental and it seems to be working.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m sure my next game could go all the way as well because Neil and Barry are both great players,” he added.

World No 6 O’Sullivan – who won the last of his five Crucible titles in 2013 – resumes against Ding on Saturday afternoon, locked at 4-4 after their opening session.

O’Sullivan won the opening frame with breaks of 39 and 61, but Ding hit back to win three frames in a row, including a break of 76 to go 3-1 in front.

The momentum in the quickfire session swung again as O’Sullivan took the next three, including a break of 101 to level at 3-3.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But after O’Sullivan had nudged back in front, Ding survived a scare when he fouled on frame ball to ensure the pair would be level overnight.

World No 89 Jamie Clarke continued his dream form at the Crucible by establishing a 6-2 overnight lead over fellow qualifier Anthony McGill.

Defending champion Judd Trump resisted a spirited challenge by Yan Bingtao to wrap up a 13-11 victory.

Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you. James Mitchinson, Editor

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.