World Championship: Williams can keep his clothes on after shock Crucible exit

Mark Williams.Mark Williams.
Mark Williams.
The Full Monty follows the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield’s theatres next week, but Mark Williams will not be stripping off this year.

The Welshman famously appeared naked in his post-match press conference – with just a towel to cover his modesty – after winning last year’s world title.

He promised to bare all once again, if he retained his title, but, unlike The Full Monty cast at the nearby Lyceum Theatre, Williams will be keeping his clothes on after his second-round 13-9 defeat to David Gilbert on Saturday night.

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The loss of Williams, following Mark Selby and Ronnie O’O’Sullivan through the Crucible’s exit doors, means the top three ranked players in the world have all fallen in the opening two rounds.

It capped an unhappy 24 hours for the 44-year-old, who spent Friday evening in the city’s Northern General Hospital after suffering from chest pains.

Not surprisingly Williams struggled when he returned to the Crucible on Saturday morning, and looked in some discomfort, but only trailed 9-7 going into the third and final evening session.

He took the opening frame, but then Gilbert – a 37-year-old from Tamworth – won the next three frames thanks to breaks of 62, 52 and 139 to pull away at 12-8.

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Williams defiantly won frame 21, but an 89 break secured Gilbert’s first appearance in a Crucible quarter-final.

“The doctors said they were 99 per cent sure it wasn’t a heart problem,” said Williams. “I’m going to have some more tests when I go home now and see my own doctor.

“I just feel terrible, and I played how I feel, dreadful. I tried my best, but I just had nothing there for the whole match.

“I was needing two or three chances to win frames, and you’re not going to get them every frame.

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“Dave played well, he made some cracking clearances and I couldn’t keep up with him.”

Just hours before Williams’s defeat, former world No 1 Selby also suffered a surprise early exit.

Trailing 9-7 overnight to former taxi driver Gary Wilson, the three-time world champion knocked in breaks of 81, 46, 42 and 66 to pull level at 10-10.

Returning after the mid-session interval, Selby seemed favourite to pull away, but Wilson – the world No 32 from Wallsend – refused to buckle.

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Either side of a marathon 49-minute frame Wilson chalked up breaks of 86 and 92 to clinch a 13-10 win and the biggest payday of his career.

He is guaranteed £50,000 for reaching the quarter-finals, where he will meet either Ali Carter or Zhou Yuelong.

“It wasn’t so much the best performance of my career, but it’s the best result of my career so far,” said Wilson. “I’m absolutely over the moon to have won that game.

“Mark missed a few, I missed a few and it got a little bit scrappy at times. But I held my nerve quite well and that basically got me over the line.

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“There are other players on the tour that you look at and think, ‘there’s no reason I can’t do as well as that’. It’s just about doing as best I can. This is the biggest stage we play on, and I want to play my best snooker.

“I don’t mind who I face next, it’s just about playing the opponent and hopefully I’ll get the result and go through.

“I don’t feel like I’m playing well enough yet to do well in the tournament. I’ve got through a couple of great games and I’m really proud of myself, but I know I’m going to have to play better.”

As for Selby, who had won the world title on three of his previous five Crucible visits in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the 35-year-old from Leicester plans a much-needed break from snooker.

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“I won’t go back to the practice table too soon that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ll have a good month off, go on holiday and then come back to practice only a week or two before the season starts again. It’s such a long season. You need to try and forget everything and just go again next season.”

The amazing run of amateur James Cahill – who knocked out world No 1 O’Sullivan in his first match at the Crucible – is over after he was squeezed out 13-12 by Scotland’s Stephen Maguire.

The world No 15 will play the winner of Judd Trump and Ding Junhui – their match concludes on Monday night, Sheffield-based Ding leading 9-7 – in a quarter-final line-up featuring just two former Crucible winners, Neil Robertson and the winner of John Higgins and Stuart Bingham.

They will resume Monday locked at 8-8.