Thursday 27 June 2019

Williams finally in dreamland after partying night away

Mark Williams. Photo: PA
Mark Williams. Photo: PA

Jim White

Mark Williams was as good as his word. After winning the most astonishingly tense world snooker final against John Higgins, the oldest champion since 1978 insisted that he was not going to have an early night.

"I'm going to party the night away. Last time I won it, I think I had half a pint of milk and went to bed," he said of his victory 15 years ago. "I'm not going to bed this time - it'll be daylight before I get to bed."

Chronicling his celebrations on social media, he duly set about on a single-handed attempt to drink Sheffield dry.

His final post, delivered at 11am, showed him flat out on a hotel bed alongside his fellow professional Lee Walker, who looked decidedly worse for wear.

"The morning after. Now I'm in bed with @lwalker147. But who cares," Williams (above) tweeted.

Nobody will begrudge him his moment. His was a return to title-winning form that deserved to be celebrated long and hard.

Twelve months ago, such had been a shambolic run of form which had encompassed not winning a ranking title in more than six years, he had contemplated retiring from the sport.

After failing to qualify for last year's finals, he had watched on television "in a caravan, holding a can of beer". This was a man who seemed finished.

However, encouraged by his wife to give it another year, he duly crowned his comeback by beating off the tenacious Higgins at the last to claim the £425,000 first prize.

And there was no one more surprised than the Welshman at his change of circumstance.

So ridiculous was the idea of him winning that he had said in the early stages he would conduct his media duties naked were he to do so. He duly did, arriving in the press room with just a towel to protect his champion modesty.

"It's an unbelievable story. Twelve months ago I was thinking about chucking it, and here I am doing an interview having won the 2018 World Championship, b****** naked," he said.

"I'm just looking forward to coming back next year, I'm not going to say anything stupid and end up like this but, to be honest, if I won this next year I'd cartwheel down here naked."

Standing grinning at the back of the room was Barry Hearn, chairman of World Snooker, who insisted there would be no disciplinary measures taken for Williams' clothes-free celebration.

"No fines, nothing, let him enjoy this incredible story," Hearn said.

It was an understandable response. Williams' unfettered salute to his achievement was precisely what the sport needed.

In the absence of Ronnie O'Sullivan, its one breakout star, here was a player demonstrating true marketable character. Not just in his joyful partying, but in the resolve he showed in the final.

After Williams had taken an apparently unassailable 15-10 lead, Higgins, the best closer in the business, had hauled him back to 15-15. Even when he then moved to 17-15, with just a pink to pot to take the title, Higgins had snapped back to force the final into the 34th frame.

Under such relentless pressure from the pursuing Scotsman, many a player has crumbled. But Williams, never for a moment showing any hint of nerves, clung on to fulfil his naked pledge.

"Where has it come from?" he said. "Unbelievable. If I never win another tournament or my form goes downhill, I don't care. I've just done something I thought I'd never ever do."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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