Wednesday 12 December 2018

Williams finishes his longest day in fine style to earn final lead

 

Mark Williams in action at the 2018 Betfred World Championship at The Crucible yesterday. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA
Mark Williams in action at the 2018 Betfred World Championship at The Crucible yesterday. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA

Gerard Hughes

Mark Williams produced a three-frame burst at the end of one of the longest days in his career as he took control of the World Championship final.

He and John Higgins have braced themselves for a close finish to the title match and that may still materialise tonight.

But for Williams a 10-7 lead is a terrific advantage to carry into day two of the marathon best-of-35 battle.

Born just two months apart in 1975, Welshman Williams and Scotsman Higgins are contesting the first title match between two forty-somethings since this once-nomadic tournament's 1977 move to Sheffield.

Whoever prevails will become the oldest champion since 1978, when 45-year-old Ray Reardon triumphed, and for 42-year-old Higgins it would mean joining Ronnie O'Sullivan on five titles. Williams, who turned 43 in March, is chasing a third win - 15 years after landing snooker's greatest prize for a second time.

Both survived tough semi-finals, with Higgins pulling away to see off Kyren Wilson, while Williams fell over the line in a late-night nerve-jangler against Barry Hawkins and was eating dinner in a nearby kebab shop in the early hours of Sunday.

Against most expectations Williams made a flying start to the final, leading 5-1 at one stage. Higgins drew level at 7-7 after making three century breaks, runs of 119, 127 and 117, and momentum looked to have shifted to the Scot.

But Williams notched his first ton, a 118, in the 15th frame before pulling away for the second time to set up a tantalising finale.

Williams had crossed the line against Hawkins just moments before midnight on Saturday. His head was spinning, his game was in pieces, and Williams predicted Higgins would whitewash him if they had to start immediately.

Indeed Williams finished so late against Hawkins that when he left the Crucible after media interviews, his best food option was a takeaway.

"Doner meat n chips never tasted so nice", Williams tweeted at 2.14am. Less than 12 hours later, he was walking out for his fourth Crucible final and, last night, he left the arena ahead once again.

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