MICHAEL White’s first ranking semi-final in India on Saturday morning will be an occasion made even more special for having Mark Williams as his opponent.
The two Welshmen could be considered master and apprentice, with two-time world champion Williams having long tipped the 23-year-old White for great things.
World No22 White finally made past the quarter-finals at the fifth attempt with a 4-2 win over Chris Wakelin in Mumbai on Friday.
And at the same time Williams, 39, was reinforcing his position in the automatic World Championship race with a 4-1 win over Rob Milkins, one of the chasing pack.
If world No15 Williams is a fan of White, the younger man - who won the quickfire Shootout recently for his first pro title - has looked up to the winner of 18 ranking tournaments his entire snooker life.
White beat Williams on his Crucible debut in 2013 in the first round, but this is arguably a bigger match for him even than the Sheffield quarter-final he lost two years ago to Ricky Walden - with a first ranking title a real possibility.
Williams said: “I knew Michael would be getting to semis and further in tournaments, I have been telling everyone for a while now. It was a matter of time, he has been knocking on the door.
“He won the Shootout as well recently and is ready to win a ranking event soon even if it isn’t here.
“And it could even be me and him in the World Cup for Wales if he carries on the way he is going, he could overtake Ryan Day in the rankings for that.
“It was a good win for me beating Rob. I might be £30,000 in front in the race but if he had beaten me there and won it things could have turned right around.
“Anyone just outside who wins an event, here, or at the PTC Finals or in China can put themselves right back in the mix. No one wants to have to play three qualifiers.
“I have got to be careful, and also Stephen Maguire is watching his coattails now having decided not to come here to India. If Michael beat me and won this at world No22 he would be back in with a shout. There’s a long way to go but I’m in a good position.
“A third semi-final of the season isn’t bad for an old man who won the Seniors. I do feel a little bit embarrassed I was in that and won it not even 40 because of the rules, but when I saw who was playing I think it was the easiest money I ever earned!
“I have been telling people about Michael for years, so it is no surprise to me he is into his first ranking semi-final.”
White said: “Mark is someone I have looked up to all my life. We travel together, wind each other up and there is plenty of banter.
“He was the one I watched as a youngster and his records are incredible – two worlds, two Masters, two UKs, and 18 ranking titles. He’s pushing 40 and in the top 16.
“It is a big relief to have won that match and get to my first ranking semi-final, and playing Mark just makes it that bit more special.
“This was my fifth quarter-final and I had lost the first four, so I am really chuffed. It was a great opportunity but Chris is a very solid player and he started very well.
“To be fair I haven’t played anyone in the top 32 to be in the semis which is pretty rare, but now there is Mark to play so that changes. He is playing better than almost anyone.
“I know he has been bigging me up a bit so I suppose to prove him right I will have to knock him out and get to my first final.”
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker