Well, he did it. Mark Williams finally ended his Ronnie O’Sullivan hoodoo with a spirited performance in a very entertaining and exciting International Championship quarter-final today.
A 17th straight defeat to O’Sullivan looked likely when Williams fell 3-0 adrift early on but he demonstrated spirit and purpose in turning things round, forging 5-3 in front with some terrific snooker.
O’Sullivan, champion that he is, responded but Williams got the job done in the decider, winning 6-5 to beat his nemesis for the first time since the 2002 Thailand Masters semi-finals.
With this cloud lifted there’s no reason why the Welshman can’t go on and win the title, other than his next two opponents, of course. It’s good to see him back competing again. This is where Williams belongs: at the business end of major tournaments where his experience and temperament stand him in good stead for ranking event success no.19.
It’s also a salutary lesson that great players should never be written off. Steve Davis, well past his prime, reached the 2004 Welsh Open final and then the UK Championship final in 2005, completely against all expectations.
Williams is approaching veteran status himself – he’s even eligible for this season’s World Seniors Championship – but age comes second to class, and he has an abundant supply of the latter as a player.
Although Williams lags behind his contemporaries O’Sullivan (26) and John Higgins (25) in terms of ranking titles it’s remarkable how many they have each won considering they have all been competing against one another, as well as Stephen Hendry and the rest. Also, it’s not like there’s been a ranking tournament a week for the last 20 years.
Next for Williams is Mark Allen, enjoying a productive campaign with one title from three final appearances already. Allen came from 3-1 in arrears at the interval to beat Michael White 5-3.
The semi-finals are best of 17 frame affairs with Friday being given over to Ricky Walden v Robert Milkins and Allen and Williams doing battle on Saturday.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.