World Championship: Mark Williams stages fightback at Crucible

Mark Williams could have been forgiven for checking out of his Sheffield hotel yesterday as his Betfred World Championship hopes looked to be over.

Trailing 7-1 after Thursday’s opening session of his semi-final with Judd Trump, the pair shared the morning’s eight frames, but Williams still faced a mountain to climb when he resumed 11-5 last night.

And when the Bristol potter opened with a superb 120 break, fans with tickets for Saturday’s final session may have started to worry that the contest could end a day early.

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Australian Neil Robertson famously checked out of his Sheffield accommodation in 2010 when he trailed Martin Gould 11-5, before staging a remarkable comeback.

Wales' Mark Williams in action against England's Judd Trump.Wales' Mark Williams in action against England's Judd Trump.
Wales' Mark Williams in action against England's Judd Trump.

But Williams showed the character which has earned him three Crucible titles to claw his way back to 13-11 heading into Saturday afternoon’s final session.

After Trump’s century, the 47-year-old took the next three frames, with breaks of 137, 58 and 53 to head into the mid-session break at 12-8.

The shackles were clearly off Williams who cut the deficit to just two frames with back-to-back breaks of 57 and 77.

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The 47-year-old potted a superb long red in frame 23, the penultimate of the evening session, but his winning run of five successive frames came to an abrupt end as Trump finally got time at the table to deliver a 113 break.

England's Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Scotland's John Higgins. Pictures: PAEngland's Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Scotland's John Higgins. Pictures: PA
England's Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Scotland's John Higgins. Pictures: PA

It was a brief respite, though, as Williams secured the final frame to trail 13-11 when they complete their match on Saturday afternoon.

In the other semi-final, Ronnie O’Sullivan resumes on Saturday morning with a 10-6 advantage over John Higgins.

The six-time Crucible champion took the last frame on a re-spotted black to open up a four-frame advantage after starting the day locked at 4-4.

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A 73 break from O’Sullivan edged him in front, but Higgins – relying on his matchplay to stay in touch, failing to put together a break over 58 in the match so far – battled back to win the next two frames to lead 6-5.

O’Sullivan, though, then reeled off the late five frames with breaks of 99, 91, 55 and 70 although the final frame brought a thrilling climax worthy of the famous Sheffield theatre.

Higgins stumbled on a break of 53, and O’Sullivan punished the Scot with a 43 clearance to force the re-spot.

Before his semi-final, Trump had Tweeted his match with 47-year-old Williams was like being “stuck in the middle of a world seniors championship”.

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Well, the actual World Seniors Championship starts just 48 hours after Monday’s Crucible final.

While the ‘Class of 92’ will not be competing, many familiar faces in Sheffield over the last fortnight will be picking up their cues again.

Former world champions Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, Joe Johnson and John Parrott – plus fans’ favourite Jimmy White – will grace the Crucible stage once again.

“It is great to come back to Sheffield and play at the Crucible again,” said seven-time world champion Hendry.

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“It is such a special venue for so many of us and holds so many memories. I know we all still get excited to play there and are very much looking forward to competing in the tournament.”

The Seniors cues off on Wednesday, and runs to next Sunday, May 8.

Yorkshireman Johnson – the 1986 world champion – will return to the scene of his most famous moment, where the 69-year-old will be joined by fellow Bradford cueman Wayne Cooper.

Leeds’s Peter Lines – who lifted the World Seniors crowd back in 2017 – will also be competing in the 24-player line-up, the 52-year-old looking to add to the UK Seniors Championship he won back in January.

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Maria Catalano – cousin of world No 1 O’Sullivan – will be the first woman to appear at the final stages of a Seniors event. She is an 11-time ranking event winner and former World No 1.

Ahmed Aly will become the first American to play at the Crucible.

Canadian Bob Chaperon is back at the home of snooker for the first time in 30 years.

Jason Francis, chairman of World Seniors Snooker, said: “We are delighted to be back at The Crucible once again for the World Seniors Snooker Championship.

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“It is a fantastic tournament and one that I know the players really enjoy playing in.

“Sheffield is renowned the world over for its love of snooker and I am sure that fans will come out and show their support for these great players and cheers them on.”

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