Mark Williams and Jackson Page prepare together for World Championship battle like no other

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Mark Williams, bidding for his fourth Crucible crown, perhaps represents the most striking antithesis of seven-time Crucible king Stephen Hendry
Mark Williams, bidding for his fourth Crucible crown, perhaps represents the most striking antithesis of seven-time Crucible king Stephen Hendry

By Ben Parsons at the Crucible

Stephen Hendry famously refused to befriend his challengers in his quest to dominate snooker.

A lone warrior on an insatiable pursuit of snooker perfection, Hendry lifted seven world titles in the 1990s to earn the moniker of ‘Crucible King’.

The sport's standards have since reached a new high, but the elite stars now at the top of the game are different beasts to the single-minded Scot at his peak.

Mark Williams, bidding for his fourth Crucible crown, perhaps represents the most striking antithesis of Hendry.

The laid-back Welshman crushed Michael White in the World Championship first round and takes on another countryman Jackson Page in an intriguing round two clash.

Williams has long been a mentor for debutant Page, who shone on a dream Crucible debut by knocking out world number nine Barry Hawkins.

And his snooker protégé now stands in the way of yet another quarter-final at the Sheffield showpiece.

But the connection between Williams, 47, and Page, 20, reaches way beyond the green baize and even transcends friendship.

“He’s not just a friend - he’s more like a fourth son,” Williams said.

“He comes to the house and plays cards with my other three boys and does everything with us. He’s like the fourth son I never had I suppose.”

Page responded: “I'm proud, definitely - they're nice words for Mark to say.

“We spend nearly every day together at tournaments. It’s good to have him in my corner.”

Seldom have sports stars braced for battle by practising together but Williams and Page are almost inseparable and imminent competition has not hampered their fun.

Williams has been posting regular pictures on social media alongside Page ahead of their unmissable last-16 clash - practising, playing poker and enjoying card games.

Such is the similarity, the duo even share the same walk-on music, and are both expected to enter the iconic theatre to Creedence Clearwater Revival hit 'Bad Moon Rising' on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m going to try my best but if I lost to anyone, I would pick him no question,” Williams said.

"If it means him getting in the top 64 by beating me, I’m half on his side anyway.

"We’ve got a few [people] up from the club. It’s going to be interesting to see which side of the balcony some of them are on."

Williams may be remarkably relaxed but he remains a fierce competitor on the table.

And despite his admiration for Page, Williams will not be taking the clash lightly.

“I want to destroy him,” he insisted.

But Page is writing his own script and back-to-back centuries to finish off the accomplished Barry Hawkins in round one was proof of his mettle.

Few players know the intricacies of the Williams game like Page and the youngster is fearless on the big stage of all.

A captivating battle between master and apprentice awaits.

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