Thursday 24 May 2018

Williams holds nerve to win third world title in epic final, does press conference naked

Mark Williams conducts his post match interview without any clothes after winning the 2018 Betfred World Championship at The Crucible, Sheffield: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Mark Williams conducts his post match interview without any clothes after winning the 2018 Betfred World Championship at The Crucible, Sheffield: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

MARK Williams of Wales beat Scotland's John Higgins 18-16 in a dramatic final on Monday to win his third world snooker title at the age of 43 and become the tournament's oldest winner for 40 years.

Higgins, 42, fought back from 15-10 down to level at 15-15 but Williams won the next two frames and although he missed a simple pink to clinch the match 18-15, he kept his nerve to close out victory 15 years after he won his second world crown.

"You have to expect a comeback from John Higgins, when you are 50-60 in front he is the best at coming back," Williams said at the presentation ceremony.

"I knew at the end if I didn't get enough in front he would clear up again but I'm over the moon. Last year I was seriously thinking of giving up, but my game is in pretty good shape now."

Higgins, four-times world champion, finished runner-up for the second year in a row.

"It was unbelievable to play in front of this crowd," he said. "The last frame was just a joke there for him to play that well under that pressure. He is a great champion."

Mark Williams and family with the trophy after winning the 2018 Betfred World Championship at The Crucible, Sheffield: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Mark Williams and family with the trophy after winning the 2018 Betfred World Championship at The Crucible, Sheffield: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Welshman Ray Reardon won his sixth world title in 1978 at the age of 45 to become the oldest winner of the event.

The 15-10 scoreline as they departed the arena on Monday evening made Williams a firm favourite to lift the trophy.

The contest was due to resume at 7pm, with Williams three frames short of the victory target.

Higgins made exactly the start to the evening session that he needed, reeling off three frames in 50 minutes.

He made breaks of 131, 67 and 82, each time ruthlessly punishing mistakes from Williams whose once huge lead was down to just two frames at 15-13.

All the momentum was with Higgins, who had won six of the last seven frames, and Williams desperately needed to halt the charging Scot.

The Higgins roll continued as he took the last frame before the interval too, again capitalising on Williams missing a red.

It would rank alongside the great Crucible final comebacks if Higgins could pull it off.

The drama was relentless but after Higgins drew level at 15-15 there was an unexpected shift in momentum.

Williams reeled off two frames in a row, the second with a 100 break, but then missed a pink in the next frame that was match ball.

Higgins cleared with a run of 65, taking the frame, but Williams was not to be denied glory.

He made 69 in the next to leave Higgins needing snookers, but they did not come. It was not his night, but it very nearly was.

Williams said: "It's unbelievable. Twelve months ago I wasn't even here. I watched it in a caravan.

"To play John in a final is an experience in itself.

"You've got to expect a comeback because when you're 50 or 60 in front he's the best I've ever seen at clearing up and that includes O'Sullivan.

"I was thinking, 'Jesus I'm not going to get over the line here'.

"I knew at the end if I didn't get enough he was going to clear up again.

"But I'm over the moon."

Williams thanked wife Joanne for convincing him to keep playing when he contemplated quitting last year.

And after saying earlier in the tournament that he would go naked to his press conference if he won the title, Williams said he would go through with that plan.

He said: "As long as Barry Hearn isn't going to fine me or discipline me I'll have to do it."

Williams walked into his press conference undressed apart from a towel, which he whipped off when he sat down.

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